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The Reckoning

****
1970

‘…a bold, fearless film that makes good on a promise to venture into unknown territory…’

I’ve not much time for pointless nostalgia; films aren’t good because they’re old, and age is quite often an issue since stories, acting styles and technical aspects date quickly. They don’t make them the way they used to, and that’s for the best, and many older movies just don’t pass the sniff test. So we should pay attention to the ones that do, and Jack Gold’s The Reckoning is one to be celebrated. It’s a bold, fearless film that makes good on a promise to venture into unknown territory, and should be commended for a tough, no-nonsense attitude to it’s subject.

And that subject IS the past, and how it impacts our futures. Mick Marten (Nicol Williamson) is a businessman, one whose way of life may well be outmoded because of the invention of the computer, or rather, the miniaturisation of the computer, since that’s what his company didn’t expect to come down the pike so soon. That’s an interesting enough scenario, in more recent times, many household names went to the wall because they simply couldn’t see how the internet would replace them. Mick returns home to Liverpool as his father dies, and discovers evidence that his dad was kicked to death. Mick wants revenge, and feels that it is his duty as his father’s son to kill the local thug responsible; there’s echoes of Hamlet here, not least because Williamson played that role the previous year for Tony Richardson. But it’s also worth noting that Mick is something of a thug himself, just better dressed. He’s a womaniser, a bully, a substance-abuser; but does he have what it takes to kill?

Uncovering the dark heart of a supposedly civilised man is part of the story here, and Gold and Williamson absolutely go for it. His character is a Wolf of Wall Street type, who ‘lacks character’ and is ‘obsessed with business’; the opening ten minutes feature Mick engaged with domestic violence, hate sex and road rage, and that’s before his troubles start. In his search for information about his father, he gets plunged into a 1970 world of working men’s clubs with bingo and wrestling on the menu, pint glasses of stout on the bar and religious bigotry on show.

The Reckoning doesn’t lionise Mick, but indicates why he self-destructs. Mick has an expectedly rich relationship with Joyce Eglinton (Rachel Roberts), who works in the local doctors surgery, and takes a shine to him. After bouts of canoodling (she describes them as having been ‘at it like knives’ another cool band name), they form some kind of understanding, and a potential way out for Mick; she’s more than just a contact address, written in lipstick on the back of some Green Shield stamps. But Mick is under the cosh of something more insidious than he knows; sectarianism, or religious bigotry, remains a constant part of UK life, and The Reckoning brilliantly charts how the still waters of one man’s life conceal a torrent of latent venom.

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    • I’m not a huge fan of Williamson, but on this evidence, I may have got that wrong…he’s amazing here…

  1. While I’m all for the “Avenger of Blood” principle, I am not a fan of all that other stuff you described here.

    How does this relate, in terms of psychology etc, to the first Death Wish movie? I’m sure someone could describe that movie in a way that I wouldn’t want to watch it either, but it was surprisingly (to me) great and the book was definitely one of the best for the year. Just wondering if perhaps this is another jewel hiding away.

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