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 The Reckoning
 Critic's Rating
   [B]
 Date Posted
   27th September, 2004
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Cast: Paul Bettany, Willem Dafoe, Ewen Bremner
Director: Paul McGuigan

Set in the 1300s, "The Reckoning" is a provocative film about passion, religion, and extreme violence. Young Father Nicholas (Paul Bettany) is an adulterous but noble priest. He sleeps with the willing wife (Marian Aguilera) of another member of the clergy (Trevor Steedman) and soon finds himself on the run, a hunted monk who ditches his robes and embraces exile in the stark wilderness. There he meets the charismatic Martin (Willem Dafeo) whose dislike subsequently turns into friendship.

Based on the 1996 novel "Morality Play" by Barry Unsworth, "The Reckoning" is interested in the values of morality and justice. Director Paul McGuigan (who had directed Paul Bettany is the criminally underrated "Gangster No. 1") has a firm grasp on style and balances it with enough substance to make this medieval tale of vice and mystery. Bettany and Dafeo lift an otherwise pedestrian story to an interesting elevation; we are more involved with the predicaments their characters find themselves in, the people they come to meet, and the circumstances they begin to distrust. Both are strong actors who could have used a richer tapestry of plotting but what they bring to the table adds enough elegance and mood for us to forgive the little detours the story takes especially in the third act to thumb a thriller-like finish in our noses. In many ways the setting is more interesting than the story. The sets have an appropriately grungy, lived-in look and are more reflective of how most people might actually have lived during the period.

All said and done, "The Reckoning" is a worthy diversion but lacks the oomph to make it a truly memorable experience. - Adnan Khan

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