One of the more challenging theatrical offerings to come to town of late is the "Red Riding" trilogy. Produced for British television and based on four crime novels by David Peace, it spans a decade in its world and a five-hour running time in ours.

One of the more challenging theatrical offerings to come to town of late is the "Red Riding" trilogy. Produced for British television and based on four crime novels by David Peace, it spans a decade in its world and a five-hour running time in ours.

The episodes are titled after the year of their setting: "1974," "1980" and "1983." The tales are connected - though not tightly - by the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer who struck in Northern England in the '70s and '80s.

Each installment incorporates crime and punishment under a thick blanket of corruption, and each features a different lead character, a different director and unique cinematography.

The trilogy is as grim and bleak as its setting would suggest. Good is mercilessly beaten down as evil smirks on. There's no fun to be had here.

More a procedural crime drama than a thriller, it's a bit reminiscent of "The Wire." It's easy to get lost in the hedge maze of characters, and there are lulls to leap over.

If you're up for the challenge, you'll get some fine acting, gorgeous camera work and a sweeping story, though the investment may outweigh the reward.

Time constraints forced me to tackle the trilogy in installments, though a bolder approach would be a full marathon. The Gateway theater is showing the films individually and consecutively, so you can take your pick.