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A compelling 'Red Riding' trilogy

Andrew Garfield as Eddie Dunford in RED RIDING

Andrew Garfield as Eddie Dunford in RED RIDING 1974 directed by Julian Jarrold An IFC Films release. Photo Credit: Phil Fisk / IFC Films ltc Photo Credit: Phil Fisk / IFC Films ltc/

Rarely has there been a world so complete, so unquestionably real, as the one created in the "Red Riding" trilogy, though be warned: It's not a pleasant place.

Based on three crime novels by David Peace, the "Red Riding" films - subtitled "1974," "1980" and "1983" and originally shown on British television last year - take place in the rotted, corrupted North England suburb of Yorkshire, where the local police keep the peace by covering up sex crimes, torturing prisoners and even pragmatically killing their own. Their motto, repeated from film to film: "We do what we want."

Written by Tony Grisoni (a frequent Terry Gilliam collaborator) but shot by three different directors, the movies are a marvel of detail and continuity. Buildings, road signs, cigarettes, all appear and reappear with creepy symbolism, bringing up grisly memories and hinting at more horrors to come.

The actors are, without exception, astounding. Names like Rebecca Hall ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona") and Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky") may ring a bell to Americans, but it's lesser-knowns like Sean Harris (the sneering cop Bob Craven) and Andrew Garfield (a crusading young journalist) who will stick in your mind for months.

As with any project this ambitious, the finale can never be as satisfying as the buildup. You won't feel disappointed, exactly - a better word might be rescued.

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