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  Reckoning, The The Smartest Guy In The Room
Year: 1969
Director: Jack Gold
Stars: Nicol Williamson, Rachel Roberts, Paul Rogers, Zena Walker, Ann Bell, Tom Kempinski, Douglas Wilmer, Barbara Ewing, Gwen Nelson, Christine Hargreaves, Godfrey Quigley, J.G. Devlin, Edward Hardwicke, Desmond Perry, Kenneth Hendel, Peter Sallis
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Michael Marler (Nicol Williamson) doesn't mess around, he knows what he wants and he's going to get it whether it be at business or pleasure. But he regards the higher class world of London he has bought into with disdain, all too aware of his working class roots in Liverpool as the son of Irish immigrants, though he's not entirely comfortable back there either, indeed, he hasn't been back to see his folks for a good five years. He is married to Rosemary (Ann Bell), who openly despises him yet is overwhelmingly sexually attracted to him, which makes for a tense relationship which Michael gets out of his system in the boardroom...

When you get a film whose opening credits play out over shots of Williamson and Bell making mad, passionate love you know you're not going to get subtlety, and with a leading man such as this you were guaranteed a central performance which would bulldoze all others in its path. Williamson was not the most retiring of actors, best known for his powerhouse stage work though also notorious for his erratic behaviour, including punching those who he felt were taking the spotlight from him, sometimes on that actual stage, but few films truly captured the electricity of his theatre roles. The Reckoning, essentially his follow up to a collaboration with writer John McGrath in The Bofors Gun, was one of those which did.

Unfortunately, with modern eyes the overbearingly masculine stylings of the protagonist look somewhere close to parody now, with Marler the most capable man in any room, and also on the road where his habit of driving like a maniac is supposed to leave us flustered with admiration; the film is so enamoured of drawing parallels between living life and zooming at dangerous, horn-pumping speeds, winding in and out of the losers who stick to the Highway Code that it repeats it at regular intervals. In fact, it's as much excited by Marler's road hog as it is his amorous antics, of which there are a few, not so much underlining how downright macho he is, as yelling it at the top of their voices.

And yet, while this could be seen as far too close to caricature, there's an integrity to Williamson's endeavours which against the odds allows him to get away with this strutting and barking. Many have observed the connection between this and Get Carter in that they both feature lead characters who have lived in London for so long that they don't really belong back home oop North, though Marler is no gangster, yet when he hears his father is at death's door he races up the motorway to Liverpool just in time to see the old man pass away. But then, as he mourns, he notices the bruises on the body, and his blood begins to boil: after consulting an old friend of his "da" he finds out he was beaten up by a young thug before expiring.

This brings all sorts of resentments to the surface, whether they be between the Irish and the English, the poor and the rich, or the law and the public as there's no way Marler is going to the police about this, he's going to mete out justice personally as he sees fit. Such is the arrogance of the man that he doesn't trust anyone to take care of anything within his world, he has to do it all himself as a self-made man must, which might fit his personality but does render many of his choices ridiculous, and all the more so in that he gets away with them so thoroughly. From scenes where he has a one night stand with Liverpool local Rachel Roberts, again playing the object of working class desire which always seemed oddly unlikely to the party his wife is holding at his luxurious country home he barges into swigging from a bottle of brandy and insisting on singing Irish rebel songs until he punches out his boss and roars at everyone to leave, Williamson undoubtedly held the attention, but to present his Marler as a hero because he sees through society's bullshit was still rather farcical in practice. Music by Malcolm Arnold.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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