Andrew Garfield plays a cocky journalist in the unrelenting Red Riding Trilogy. (IFC Films)

By Olu Alemoru
Cultured patrons attending the Westside’s Landmark Nuart theater Feb. 12 were well advised to bring a cushion and their warmest slippers as the renowned indie movie venue screened a five-hour dramathon called “The Red Riding Trilogy.”

However, the audience would also be well-warned to go with strong stomachs, as the British made-for-television series features some of the most unsettlingly brutal and hauntingly realistic images of violence ever captured on screen.

Adapted by screenwriter Tony Grisoni and based on a celebrated quartet of novels by author David Peace (“Red Riding-1977” was nixed for budgetary reasons), the films are a highly ambitious descent into the darkness of the human soul.

Encapsulating and interlinking a decade of modern British history, the trilogy mixes fact and fiction to expose heinous police and political corruption in a northern industrial town, as a backdrop to a spate of child serial killings and the real-life hunt for the “Yorkshire Ripper.”

The child slayings evoke the infamous and gruesome 1960’s “Moors” murders by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who killed and tortured five children aged between 10 and 17.

It became so named because three (one discovered 20 years later) of the bodies were found on Saddleworth Moor near the Yorskshire town of Oldham.

Three different directors tackle the epic project: “1974” is helmed by Julian Jarrold, “1980” by James Marsh and “1983” by Anand Tucker.

It also boasts a who’s-who of British acting talent, including Sean Bean (“Patriot Games,” “Lord of the Rings”); Andrew Garfield (“The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”); David Morrissey (“The Reaping”); and Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

It’s hard to say, but either Grisoni is either a masochist or quite possibly insane in apparently jumping at the chance to re-create the novels.

The unrelenting drama assaults the senses with pictures of child mutilation (the serial killer has a passion for swans and attaches their wings to his victims), extreme violence (a priest is blasted to death with a shotgun at short range) and torture (interrogating police unleash a live rat to gnaw at a man’s groin).

All the while, the action is mostly framed through a nihilistic vision of what Northern life was like in the 1970s and ‘80s for ordinary, working class folks trapped in ugly concrete tenements, and crime-infested, virtually abandoned housing estates.

“This is the North where we do what we want,” a line uttered in toast by a cabal of senior, corrupt Yorskshire police officers, sets the scene in 1974 where rookie journalist Eddie Dunford (Garfield) returns from London for his father’s funeral as a young girl goes missing.

Perhaps trying to prove himself for not making the grade down south, Dunford latches onto the case and persuades the gruff editor of the Yorkshire Post to let him investigate how the police are handling it.

The short answer to that is “any bloody way they want,” as the cocky scribe tragically falls for Paula Garland (Hall) the mother of another recent victim and his investigation rubs local business tycoon John Dawson (Bean) the wrong way.

Then, as the central characters arc and overlap, a series of flashbacks unravel the other two films as the increasingly riveting hunt for the serial killer becomes a grand guignol of superior storytelling.


By Olu Alemoru

They think it's all over!

You heard it here first, England WILL win the soccer world cup in South Africa in 2010.
Right now a legion of soccer buffs probably think I’ve taken leave of my senses. Afterall, the nation who invented the game have only ever won the tournament once, back in the black and white TV days and recently failed miserably to qualify for the Euro 2008 Finals. (England needed only a point from their last qualifying game, but lost 2-3 to Croatia on home soil, despite the fact the Croats had already qualified).
However, they haven’t been talking to English director Paul Weiland, whose movie, “Sixty Six,” puts an autobiographical spin on the greatest moment in English soccer history.
The year was 1966 and England were tournament hosts.
Meanwhile, in North London, a 12-year-old Jewish lad was about to have his Bar Mitzvah, inconveniently scheduled for the day of the Final.
Great timing; become a man when your family, friends, nay the whole of the country are glued to the box, or curse the side forever if they ruin your big day.
Unfortunately, for Weiland (“Made of Honor”), he was that young man and has now exorcised those demons thanks to the “Working Title” producing team of Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner (“Four Weddings and Funeral,” Notting Hill,” and “Love Actually”).
Richard Curtis, who penned all three of those films and also directed Love, collaborated with Weiland on the screen story and exec produced the picture. The screenplay was written by Peter Straughan and Bridget O’Connor.
The film stars Gregg Sulkin as an asthmatic Bernie, whose plans for his perfect day start to go awry when his father’s business starts to fail, forcing the family to scale back on their plans.
Adding to his jitters, the World Cup Final is going to be same day, but parents Manny and Esther (Eddie Marsan and Helena Bonham Carter) assure him that England won’t possibly make it that far and refuse to change the date.
With a bullying older brother, Alvie (Ben Newton), to contend with, Bernie’s only solace comes from his relationship with asthma specialist, Dr. Barrie, the always excellent Stephen Rea.
“I’m lifting my curse on the team,” said Weiland, in a phone interview last week from the Chateau Marmont for three days of press before flying back to London.
Of course, sport has a habit of the miraculous — Red Sox/Yankees 2004 and last year’s Superbowl — so you never know. “Perhaps England will win it next time, but I’m just glad to have made film,” added Weiland, who traces its origins to a 50th birthday speech in 2005.
“I had been to quite a few 50th birthday parties and a few of them were for writers and actors,” recalled Weiland. “There were some really good speeches and so I wanted to come up with something memorable. When I told the Bar Mitzvah story it got big laughs. The Working Title producers were in the room and said I should make it as a movie. Helena was also there and said if I ever do, she’d like to play my mother.”
Weiland made the film for a bargain basement $6 million but went up against “Borat” when it was released in the U.K. in 2006. The result was a blowout for Sacha Baren Cohen, but the Weiland has been pleased with the reception stateside.
“The reviews have been excellent, which makes me a bit nervous,” said Weiland with that typical British modesty.
“NBC Reel critic Jeffrey Lyons called it one of the best films of the year. I think that was over the top, but I’ll take it.”


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