Red Riding Trilogy 

with barely any buzz among the mainstream, IFC Films' "Red Riding" trilogy is one of the very best home-video releases of 2010. The epic is a singular achievement; it's difficult enough to make one great crime drama, so imagine the task of creating three "? and with different directors at that!

Based on David Peace's series of novels, the trilogy keys off England's real-life Yorkshire Ripper murders of the era, with each movie taking place in one of the years of 1974, 1980 and 1983. Characters come in and out "? major in one, minor or even absent in others "? but ultimately helping weave a masterful narrative about corruption, obsession and redemption.

The protagonist of "1974" is eager, freshman newspaper reporter Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield), who, against the advice of his superiors and authorities, pokes his nose for news into the disappearances and subsequent murders of several girls, after one with swan wings sewn roughly onto her back is discovered on the land of a wealthy developer's (Sean Bean) proposed site for a shopping mall. What Dunford finds ruffles some dangerous feathers, and more so when he gets romantically involved with a grieving mother of one of the deceased.

In "1980," there's still no solution to the murders, which has the press and public ever irate, so Peter Hudson (Paddy Considine) is assigned to the case as new blood, to start from scratch. Trouble is, like Dunford, he's too good at what he does, so those whose secrets he uncovers see to it they don't get out. Hudson's personal life risks similar unraveling as things become too personal.

A slovenly solicitor (Mark Addy) becomes the focus of "1983." It's difficult to discuss the details of this finale without spoiling the reveals of the previous two films. Suffice to say, loose ends presented in those works are tied up, and events are explained that you didn't even realized needed explanation, all leading to a satisfying, emotional end that is nowhere near what you'd expect.

Respectively directed by Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker, the trilogy is designed so that each movie stands on its own and could be enjoyed separately, but why do that? To do so would be like eating without chewing. Instead, savor the series from start to finish. I wouldn't recommend taking in all five hours in one sitting, but over three days is ideal so events of everything that comes before it remain top-of-mind.

I have no qualms with these extraordinary dramas; while I thought "1974" started off slow, this likely may be more a case of acclimating to its methodical, period groove. A flashy, fast-paced episode of "CSI," this is not; these more resemble David Fincher's vastly underappreciated "Zodiac," also based on a real-life serial killer.

IFC presents this series in one fine, affordable package, complete with deleted scenes and interviews. There's a short making-of segment on the third disc, but under no circumstances should you watch it before finishing, as it contains the climactic shot of "1974."

Don't let the fact these were made for television keep you from it. We're talking television as in "The Sopranos," not some Lifetime melodrama with Jennifer Love Hewitt. The filmmakers do not hold back on violence and language, keeping it grounded in a grim reality that will stick with you long after the credits roll. "?Rod Lott

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