If a movie is called slow, it typically means that it drags, at least in a few places. Maybe certain scenes are extraneous, or a joke goes on for too long. However, this does not mean that all films which don’t swiftly jump around are boring. The term ‘deliberately placed’ is often utilized in place of the word slow to get the difference across.
Mary O’Malley (June Dietrich) discovers that her husband is dead; murdered by Marrow (Kevin Makely), a deranged serial killer who delights in taking lives. Her neighbor Diana (Meg Foster) gives her a horse, a gun, and food so Mary can search for the man responsible and get her revenge. On her travels, Mary meets Mr. Barley (Kevin Crow), a kindly store clerk that gives her a warm bed and more supplies. However, she runs afoul of Jebediah (Todd A. Robinson), a singularly minded bounty hunter, who doesn’t take kindly to competition.
“Her neighbor gives her a horse, a gun, and food so Mary can search for the man responsible and get her revenge.”
For the western A Reckoning, without spoiling anything, that is the entire plot. Given the straightforward story, the film could just as easily be half an hour, or an hour and a half. It is the latter, and that is because, as with so many other stories, it is how it arrives at the end that is so gratifying.
After her first day of riding, Mary stops and shares a fire with a couple of other travelers. This is when she first catches sight of Jebediah. She follows him, not because she mistakes Jebediah for Marrow, but because he might lead Mary closer to her prey. It is a small thing, but she shows her intelligence and determination in a natural way. It also fleshes out the wild west timeframe A Reckoning takes place in, allowing it to feel vastly realistic.
Writer-director Justin Lee allows the realities of living in that period to unfold naturally. The beauty of the trails Mary travels is matched only by their immensity. Mary stops to eat and drink, and the isolation she is experiencing is beautifully realized thanks to the cinematography. Adding to the tension as well as the haunting score by Jared Forman.
“…allows the realities of living in that period to unfold naturally.”
Less impressive is Jebediah. His quick temper and shoot first attitude does not make a ton of sense. Since he is not the killer, his scenes only take away from the real story- Mary finding Marrow. They also ring false dramatic tension which makes all of his sequences feel hollow.
Dietrich is good, even if it takes her a few scenes to seem really comfortable in the role. Makely as the killer gives a spirited, engaging performance. Lance Henriksen is in the film for a brief time, and he is as charismatic as ever. Kevin Crow provides a refreshingly nice presence to the harsh journey, and he projects that sweetness well.
A Reckoning takes its time but is well worth the watch. A few minor issues prevent from being a masterpiece, but thanks to excellent directing, it is a hypnotizing viewing experience.
A Reckoning (2018) Directed by Justin Lee. Written by Justin Lee. Starring June Dietrich, Lance Henriksen, Kevin Crow, Kevin Makley, Todd A. Robinson, Meg Foster.
7.5 Gummi Bears (out of 10)