THE RECKONING (2020)

The Reckoning.jpg

Studio:     Shudder/RLJE Films
Director:    Neil Marshall
Writer:     Neil Marshall, Charlotte Kirk, Edward Evers-Swindell
Producer:  Daniel-Konrad Cooper, Michael Marks, Steffen Wild, Esther Turan
Stars:     Charlotte Kirk, Joe Anderson, Steven Waddington, Sean Pertwee, Ian Whyte, Rick Warden, Bill Fellows, Mark Ryan

Review Score:

40.jpg

Summary:

While the plague ravages England in 1665, a widow must defend herself from a cruel landlord and a deluded judge who accuse her of witchcraft.


Synopsis:     

Review:

Whenever a movie is so indescribably blah that I*m not sure what*s worth talking about, I*ll start with a summary and hope the act of typing brings something to mind. You can see where this review of ※The Reckoning§ is headed then.

The Great Plague ravages England. With disease claiming the life of lowly farmer Joseph Haverstock, Joseph*s wife Grace, who wears the makeup of a Maybelline spokesmodel despite rampaging pestilence, is left to raise their infant daughter Abby alone. It also leaves landlord Squire Pendleton breathing down Grace*s neck. Easy to identify due to dusty clich谷s constituting his characterization, Squire is as lascivious as he is cruel. Lip-licking leers telegraph Squire*s intentions to take advantage of the widowed woman. If she can*t make her monthly rent, he*s all too pleased to introduce an alternate way for Grace to pay.

Empowered by defiant resilience as the one note to her hollow heroine, Grace refuses to be abused by Squire. That*s no matter for the man. It*s 1665. All he has to do is make one whisper of witchcraft and the town will exact vengeance for him. After Grace fends off his sexual assault, Squire does exactly that, and his accusation leads to Grace*s imprisonment.

Never one to do his own dirty work, Squire summons a second man from the stock character closet to handle Grace*s inquisition. Beyond the basics of being a self-flagellating, steely-staring, no-nonsense &Man of God,* Judge Moorcroft has a personal connection to Grace. He*s the same witch-finder who executed Grace*s mother for supposed demonry, and he sees fit to do the same to Grace now too.

The 350-year-old witch-hunt seems positioned to parallel present day politics as an allegory about systemic misogyny oppressing women through gaslighting and subjugation as well as tangible and intangible torment. But then there*s a sappy score laid on top that over-dramatizes a soap opera tone while hits of horror sneak in stray shocks to remind us this is supposed to be a Neil Marshall thriller, not a stuffy costume piece. By grasping at multiple identities, ※The Reckoning§ ends up without a distinct one of its own. The film thus plays more like cable television background noise than epic cinema, and more like a negligible episode of ※Outlander§ than a grand chapter in ※Game of Thrones.§

There isn*t a unique personality to be found. After unenthusiastically stamping out Grace, Squire, and Moorcroft, the cookie cutter keeps hacking at flat dough with plain shapes like a fearful servant sympathetic to Grace*s struggle and a faithful friend whose standout scenes only involve her face taking the force of her husband*s fist. A complete coterie of inconsequential side characters, some of whom appear on the cusp of earning actual subplots until the script decides to stay narrowly dialed into Grace*s redundant torture, pitter-patters and chit-chats with such irrelevance, it*s a wonder all of their material didn*t remain on the cutting room floor.

The production design*s comparatively smaller scope represents a sizable step backward from director Neil Marshall*s lauded work like ※The Descent,§ ※Dog Soldiers,§ or even his ※Hellboy§ reboot (review here). I can*t make heads or tails of the intent behind some of Marshall*s scalp-scratching stylistic choices, such as sudden flashbacks or ※Day I§ through ※Day V§ chapter headings of zero narrative value. It*s not because Marshall operates on an advanced level of thematic filmmaking beyond an average moviegoer*s understanding. It*s because ※The Reckoning§ is too drab to inspire a synapse to fire in a disinterested viewer*s imagination.

Given their co-writing credits and her starring role spotlight, cynicism suggests ※The Reckoning§ is merely a vanity vehicle for Marshall and his fianc谷e Charlotte Kirk to play dress-up in Hungary while producers pick up the tab. With the announcement that Marshall*s next film ※The Lair§ will professionally pair the couple once again, I*m left to wonder if they*re just trading on clout to do ※phone it in§ projects where they can write whatever they want and dictate as many creative conditions as possible. Not that there*s anything wrong with that if it*s backed up by evidentiary entertainment. But the only proof ※The Reckoning§ provides is that Marshall and Kirk made a two-hour snoozer whose primary value is as a long look at the laboriousness of one woman combating false accusations, a longer look at Charlotte Kirk feigning pain for a BDSM fetishist*s pleasure, or as a surefire solution for shooting your attention span to ribbons.

Review Score: 40