Doug MacRay could have been a contender. He robs banks and armored trucks for a living, moonlighting as a blue-collar construction type. Once upon a time he had a chance to escape the mean streets of Boston’s clannish Charlestown neighborhood, and with them the legacy of his father, a career criminal wasting away in Walpole’s Cedar Junction prison.
Doug (Ben Affleck) was a hockey player with a scorer’s touch, but instead of going pro he fell into the family business, emptying vaults for the neighborhood crime boss (Pete Postlethwaite) and setting aside just enough cash to harbor dreams of a better life. He has a tight-knit crew and a guiding sense of principle, though the two are often at odds.
Heavy with gloom and so pervasively violent that a single misstep might have reduced it to macabre comedy, Red Riding: 1974 has the feeling of a nightmare. This is no accident.
Director Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane) favors his lighting dim and his skies oppressively bleak, mitigated only by illuminating flashes so brilliant as to be blinding. If they seem to suggest a break from the grim reality of Tony Grisoni’s story, about a journalist investigating a series of child murders in Yorkshire, the illusion is fleeting. At no time is 1974, the first episode of the Red Riding trilogy released last year for BBC television, anything close to cheery