Red Riding Review

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Is this the British Wire?


“Red Riding suggests that high-ranking officers of the West Yorkshire police were in the pockets of big business, that detectives tortured witnesses, and even murdered their fellow officers,” a retired (and anonymous) West Yorkshire policeman revealed in The Guardian recently. “I’ve never seen such a load of rubbish in my life...” Well, quite. After far too long (since, arguably, BBC’s The Cops), we finally have a British TV crime drama with balls. And a budget. And decent directors. Fuck that pussy Heartbeat shit.

Although it’s worth adding that Channel 4’s three-part TV-movie adaptation of David Peace’s four Red Riding novels isn’t entirely the ‘British Wire’ we might have wished for. In the first two parts at least, plotlines are strung on obvious archetypes, such as 1974’s swaggering journo who sticks his nose in too far (Andrew Garfield) and 1980’s ‘one good cop’ (Paddy Considine). But the performances are, without exception, superb (particularly David Morrissey as dour inspector Maurice Jobson), while its crepuscular, twisted take on recent history, its wilful avoidance of playing period detail for kitsch effect, and the boldness with which the series entwines its grim doings around the real-life case of The Yorkshire Ripper (the backdrop to the central film) are breathtakingly bold moves.

“It was nowhere near as good as Life On Mars,” wrote that disgruntled ex-copper. Too right. This is Life In Hell.