The Reckoning

There is a very important question that is finally answered in The Reckoning: how does Willem Dafoe look when he is doing yoga? Yes, Dafoe (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Finding Nemo) does some really strange stretching, and it really has nothing to do with the rest of the story. The Reckoning, based on the novel Morality Play by Barry Unsworth and adapted by Mark Mills (Global Hershey, The Lost Son), retains this feeling of disjointedness for its duration. What exactly is it about? The film makes will probably say that it is about a fallen man trying to save another to atone for his own sins, but things are flying all over the place. The lack of focus by director Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1, The Acid House) causes the film to meander, losing any sense of drama and tension that was intended.

McGuigan reteams with Paul Bettany (Master and Commander, The Heart of Me), who plays Nicholas, a fallen priest. Their collaboration on Gangster No. 1 was what brought Bettany to the attention of moviegoers and helped kick his career into motion. Nicholas had sex with one of his parishioners, and her husband was none too happy. He is disgraced and on the run when he runs into a troupe of actors run by Martin (Dafoe). They reluctantly agree to bring him on, and they put on their play to little fanfare. The town is in the grip of the trial of Martha (Elvira Minguez, The Dancer Upstairs, When the Bell Chimed 13), a deaf mute on trial for the murder of a young boy. And, Vincent Cassel (Irreversible, Read My Lips) shows up for a scant few seconds as the Lord of the town.

Martin decides, against the better wishes of some of his troupe, to adapt the story of the woman into a play. What better way to captivate the attention of the town then to fictionalize what is going on right before their very eyes? As Martin, Nicholas, and the rest of the troupe go about making the events into a play, they find themselves unwittingly investigating the murder of the boy. The facts do not add up, and Nicholas is convinced that there is no way that Martha committed the murder. The local authorities aren't happy at all with the production, which serves only to stoke the townspeople, and Nicholas begins seeking the truth in earnest.

Everything about The Reckoning is pretty silly, especially the climactic staging of the play before the rabid villagers. Much of the drama is not there because it is instantly obvious who the real murderer is. McGuigan probably intended the play to act as a sort of introspective catalyst for Nicholas. While examining the purported sins of the woman, he would simultaneously be examining his own shortcomings. Bettany does do a decent job (sans Russell Crowe) but things get a little too melodramatic sometimes, especially between Nicholas and the limber Martin. Instead of looking inward, the plot becomes Law & Order in 14th Century England.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for some sexuality and violent images.

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