By Wendy Mitchell
Updated February 05, 2010 at 02:30 PM EST

Sure, it’s a tough sell — dirty cops, crooked businessmen, murder, and child abduction – all in one five-hour über-dark package? With thick Yorkshire accents and bad ’70s fashions, to boot. But trust me The Red Riding Trilogy is worth your time.

I’m trying to think of a way to describe these films – the closest I can come is: Zodiac meets The Wire meets Silence of the Lambs meets Midnight Cowboy meets meets Chinatown meets Kes meets The Godfather. Is that ridiculous enough to convince you to see it?

This is one of the year’s most ambitious film projects — maybe not in terms of budget, but certainly in terms of creative challenges. The filmmakers took acclaimed author David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet of novels and distilled them into three films (1974, 1980, and 1983), each with a different focus but overlapping some characters and settings in the North of England. The real-life Yorkshire Ripper comes into play, but a lot of this noir is fiction, about the people doing bad deeds (the aforementioned murder and child abduction) and a few brave souls who try to uncover the pitch-black truth. The project reflects the style of each director involved — Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane), James Marsh (Man on Wire), and Anand Tucker (Leap Year) — and showcases a few of Britain’s best young actors (Andrew Garfield, Paddy Considine, Rebecca Hall).

I found the films so addictive that I have now turned to the books. They are brilliant, although even more disturbing than the films — I’ve had to stop reading them at bedtime.

I saw the three films back to back, in a cinema, and I highly recommend watching all three, in order, marathon-style (although they can stand individually). People will easily watch six hours of a TV series on DVD, so why not try it with 307 minutes of film? New York’s IFC Center has a “roadshow” of the trilogy starting today, and it moves to Los Angeles on Feb. 12, and other cities on Feb. 19. (It’s also on demand, and we all know that hours on your couch is SO do-able.)

Need even more reasons to see it? Ridley Scott is already planning a U.S. remake, so you can be the smug smartypants who saw the original. Also, you can impress your friends with a menacing new catchphrase: This is the North, and we do what we want.

So, who’s in for five hours of neo-noir? Has anyone out there read all of the books yet? After you watch one (or three) films, come back and sound off in the comments.

Photo Credit: Phil Fisk