Go ahead and order Red Riding: 1974 from IFC’s on-demand pay-per-view channel, but take two precautions when you do. First, buy the whole trilogy, because this collection of interconnected made-for-TV films based on the series of novels by David Peace is more like a miniseries than a set of stand-alone movies. Second, and more importantly, you should turn on the closed captioning, because this series, which originally aired last year on Britain’s Channel 4, features Yorkshire accents and idioms so thick and incomprehensible that the characters might as well be reading from the rough draft of Canterbury Tales for all the good your knowledge of Americanized English is gonna do you. This ain’t a Hugh Grant movie, in which everybody enunciates perfectly and all you have to remember is that a truck is called a lorry. This is more like Snatch if every character were a Pikey.
In 1974, reporter Eddie Dunford (Garfield) is covering the disappearance of a local schoolgirl when he uncovers two other similar recent cases that have also remained unsolved. His lines of inquiry are strongly discouraged by the local police, and his boss (Henshaw), quite possibly the worst newspaper editor of all time, continually tries to limit the scope of his investigation with instructions to not piss off the cops or intrude on the privacy of potential witnesses. No one appears to be cooperative, but it’s hard to tell what their attitudes are, exactly, when everybody talks like they’ve got a mouthful of kidney pie.
Eddie: Who `mumble, mumble` wings on the wee `mumble`?
Woman: Geezer apples and pears bobby blimey lukewarm beer, love!
Eddie’s friend and mentor, Barry, only makes things worse by introducing a paranoia-fueled subplot — a conspiracy theory somehow implicating turtle-necked shopping-mall developer and Aryan Übermensch John Dawson (Bean) in not only the kidnappings, rapes, and murders, but also torching an inconveniently located gypsy camp and government death-squads and something-something pip pip and a crumpet. Eddie is a British variation on that standard Hollywood reporter: a plays-by-his-own-rules loose cannon who yells at his editor, infuriates the police, and comes close to blowing the case wide open without writing a single damn story. He’s also doomed to fail, and that’s not a spoiler considering there’s another three hours of story left when 1974’s closing credits roll. You’ll want to watch the other two entries, 1980 and 1983, immediately after, but considering the plot only gets more complicated as the series continues, you might wait for Rosetta Stone to release a Cockney Edition first.
Time-Warner cable subscribers can order the Red Riding Trilogy via on-demand pay-per-view until May 3. — Jeremy Martin