Set six years after the event of the first film, “Red Riding 1980” follows the search for a serial killer in England the media has dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper. Whereas the first film followed a crime reporter’s investigation, James Marsh’s film follows a group of detectives trying to find the killer while dealing with a web of corruption entangling the local police force. Like the previous entry, the more the investigators find, the worse their lives get.
News footage and shots of the angry population inform viewers by now the Ripper has killed and tortured 12 women in Yorkshire over the course of at least 4 years. The police are stretched thin and there is so much evidence the floors had to be reinforced so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight of the file cabinets. The final straw comes when assistant constable chief Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke) gives a televised speech addressed to the killer telling him he sympathises with his feelings. To deal with the bad press reaction, the people up the food chain decide it is time to bring in new blood.
They bring forth the aptly named detective Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) from Manchester to head over a covert investigation. Hunter is described as squeaky clean and once investigated the Yorkshire police for a possible cover up. He brings in his own team made up of detective John Nolan (Tony Pitts) and detective Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake), but must also contend with the openly uncooperative Bob Craven (Sean Harris) of Yorkshire. Craven dislikes Hunter to the point he tells him the Yorkshire police will find their Ripper without Hunter’s help. How egotistical do you have to be to want to claim ownership of a serial killer?
Hunter makes quick progress by profiling the killer as a seemingly ordinary married man hiding in plain sight, contrary to what every other investigators believe. Yet whatever progress he makes is hindered by the discovery one of the local detectives was previously involved with one of the victims. As Hunter tries digging for the truth, bodies are found butchered in garages, his house is burned to the ground and someone sends compromising photos of him and detective Marshall, ruining his squeaky clean image.
Much like the first entry in the Ripper trilogy, this one keeps the tone bleak throughout. The tension builds as Hunter has meetings on rainy nights with scared informants who are more afraid of the police than of the Ripper. When he goes to the countryside to seek out a priest, Hunter is surrounded by children holding toy guns, but for a minute he truly believes they just might be holding the real deal.
It is very helpful to have seen the previous Red Riding entry before seeing this one, as events of previous years have echoes in this current investigation. Characters that had minor roles now have key roles that will affect the final outcome of the investigation. It is all tied up rather nicely, but it leads to an ending just as bleak as in the first chapter.
Taken separately, this part of the trilogy is an effective thriller. Every character is well cast, whether they are playing unapologetically corrupt police officers or informants hiding dark secrets. Director James Marsh keeps the tension tight in key moments, such as in the slow reveal of a double murder committed by power drill.
(The entire “Red Riding trilogy is out on DVD and is available on Netflix.)