Friday, May 22, 2015

The Reckoning (2004)

tags: medieval murder mystery, play within a play

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Set in 14th century England, THE RECKONING focuses on Nicholas (Paul Bettany), a young priest who has broken his vow of chastity and in turn becomes a fugitive, escaping from his fellow monks and their judgment. Posing as an actor in a traveling acting troupe, Nicholas, along with the actors, discovers that a young woman convicted of killing a boy is actually innocent and the troupe sets out to prove her innocence by incorporating the crime into their plays.
My rating is actually only 3 stars but I give a bonus star for Tom Hardy's appearance playing mostly women's roles. In this video he appears as Eve and the deaf-mute woman accused of murdering a young boy. Tom was pretty before he bulked up for Warrior and Dark Knight Rises.

Regardless of [IMHO the talent-challenged] Paul Bettany in the lead role, I watched this 2004 movie because historical fiction, particularly medieval period, is one of my favorite book as well as movie genres. Willem Dafoe as the travelling actors troupe's leader, Martin, and Vincent Cassel as the villainous Lord de Guise, made the decision for me to sit down and watch.

It starts out good and interesting, I didn't notice the wooden Paul Bettany. One of the strangest scenes is Willem Dafoe somewhere at the beginning of the movie doing all sorts of acrobatic moves, doing cartwheels and somersaults, and arching his body like a hoop, I was scratching my head wondering as to the relevance. There's none. I like the story line enough to continue watching but the second half stumbles a bit. Vincent Cassel is underutilized here and his last scenes are just terrible and badly written, it's cringe-worthy. There are huge historical discrepancies which are forgivable because the main story is finding out who actually murdered the boy.  

The movie is based on the novel Morality Play by Barry Unsworth which I am currently reading. I'm liking his writing style but he is not nearly as good as Umberto Eco and Edith Pargeter/Ellis Peters. After reading a few chapters, I find that the movie mixes up the characters a lot. For example, Willem's acrobatic moves belong to the 15 year old boy in the book which was mentioned just once. I don't think it's necessary in the movie and with Willem Dafoe's character having the ability. Oh, well. Movie adaptations are almost always inferior to the book and that's fine.

Currently streaming on Netflix and Amazon.

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