The bodies of the West Yorkshire innocent are beginning to pile up in "Red Riding: 1980," the increasingly literal-minded second chapter of the British television crime trilogy. More directly communicated than the previous installment, "1980" benefits from calmer direction and a better class of actors, while gradually drawing out an additional serial killer tale that goes beyond journalistic investigation to pry open the black heart of the local law.
With the "Yorkshire Ripper" serial killer on the loose targeting young women, the populace is trapped in a state of fear. Without any leads in the case materializing, special investigator Peter Hunter (Paddy Considine) is called in to clean up the clues, bringing along trusted detectives John Nolan (Tony Pitts) and Helen Marshall (Maxine Peake) to help conduct business. Rubbing up against the questionable methods of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, Peter learns the case has been poorly handled from day one, allowing the killer to carry out his reign of terror for years. Striving to prevent the Yorkshire Ripper from striking again, Peter questions the locals (including Peter Mullan) and sinister Officer Bob Craven (Sean Harris), while facing renewed temptation from Helen, trying to avoid rekindling an affair that nearly destroyed his marriage.
The police corruption itch that started in "Red Riding: 1974" has exploded into a full-out rash for "1980," examining the combustible West Yorkshire police force as they face a fresh threat to their sadistic ways. The new director here is James Marsh ("Man on Wire"), who wisely dials down the hallucinations of the previous film to deliver a potent second chapter of a trilogy that still hasn't quite revealed its fangs at this point, instead patiently coiling around the viewer like a serpent positioning itself for a final squeeze of death. We're not quite at a peak of revelation or closure, with most of "1980" set aside to properly illuminate the West Yorkshire menace.
Having Paddy Considine in the lead role lends the screenplay by Tony Grisoni (who's written all three films) a relatable face of disgust, as Peter observes a malicious and corrupt force select their own needs of power and profit over their professional vow to protect the innocent. However, Peter is no hero himself, only a confident company man who doesn't quite understand the gravity of the situation. The Yorkshire Ripper is his case and he's determined to solve it, restoring a sense of honor misplaced through infidelity and a loss of professional advantages. Considine is a marvelous guide to the madness of West Yorkshire, communicating a pitch-perfect temperament of frustration and bravado as Peter's bold foothold in the community shifts into cruel submission. The entire cast submits chilling work in their respective roles, but Considine's performance forms an unexpected emotional tear to "1980" that "1974" never quite achieved.
Because "1980" is stripped down to the basics of guilt and inquiry, it might come off as a glorified "Law & Order" episode at first sight. While not quite snapping into a vice-tight criminal headlock like the longstanding television series, "1980" is imaginatively slow-burn when it comes to crooked activity, not unlike David Fincher's "Zodiac," only minus the frosty filmmaking precision. Marsh angles for eye-opening disturbance (or a freakish inevitability) to fuel his installment, encouraging a distressing mood of West Yorkshire despair, even to the very last scene. While connections are drawn between "1974" and "1980," it's interesting to watch this series move beyond its serial killer invitation and transform into something far more sinister as the spotlight is turned from crime to cop.
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