Movie Review: Revenge in the Old West leads to “A Reckoning”

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Sometimes, you have to re-visit the Internet Movie Database just to be sure whether Uwe Boll has made good on his latest promise/threat to retire.

Because disciples and acolytes of the Worst Director of Our Times (Sorry, Tommy Wiseau) are everywhere.

Justin Lee has three movies out this summer. “Big Legend” was his shot at a bigfoot horror picture, scenic but inept in the extreme. And with September brings the threatened release of a Western, “Any Bullet Will Do.”

He makes films in the northwest, and he even has what you could call a repertory company — actors who work on film after film as he cranks them out in Montana, Washington state and points in between.

But Lee is one of those directors with the wherewithal to get a movie made, and none of the talent to warrant anyone encouraging his efforts in this direction. Seriously, I hope he isn’t blowing through his parents’ retirement with this garbage.

You don’t want reviews to turn too personal, and there was little point stomping “Big Legend” into pulp. I mean, the guy gives the ancient King of the Bs, Lance Henriksen, work. But Lee shows signs of getting worse, film by film.

He isn’t getting the hint.

“A Reckoning” is badly-acted, spotless colorfully costumed, incompetently plotted and inanely directed, a Western fiasco of the cut-rate order in which its writer-director thinks having an Old West town elder (Henricksen) rail at “an act of violence instilled upon us...yet again” and similar assaults against the English language, is going to ring in the listener’s ears like poetry. Line after line like this grimaces through the early scenes.

The secret to Lee’s “success” must mean he makes a great pitch. “Reckoning” seem,s promising enough, about a human-devouring monster terrorizing 1871 coastal Washington. A woman’s husband is murdered, and the locals “heard he wasn’t all there” when he was found.

Mary, his widow (played by the expression-impaired June Dietrich) declares before Breck (Henriksen) and Miss Maple and the whole community that “I aim to kill the man who took my husband from me.”

No suggestion that “this is insane,” followed by “it’s not ladylike” can stop her.

“Your heart burns with a vengeance that could fuel the fires of Hell,” says Miss Maple (veteran character actress Meg Foster). She must see something the camera doesn’t.

What follows is a static pursuit through the wild Northwest, with Mary following no recognizable trail, just occasionally running afoul of the mountain man/murderer Jebediah (Todd A. Robinson) something-or-other.

Dull shoot-outs accompany their encounters.

He’s not the cannibal Mary is looking for, and the lack of trail, evidence of victims and her own woodlands naivete make one wonder how this tinhorn is ever going to find a killer, even if he is “as big as a mountain and mean as a bear.”

When she reaches the Pacific, she lets us see her compass for the first time. Dear, it’s the Pacific. To your left is South to San Francisco, to your right is north to Seattle, Canada and Alaska. Straight ahead? Swim.

Lee lets things plod and plod along through cliff-strewn coastlines, rainforest waterfalls and dense woods. An 80 minute movie with endless longueurs, that squanders this much screen time between action sequences, is beyond trying one’s patience.

And when there is action, hey, we’ve got to have a little blood splatter on the lens. A tip — people who do that make it a short cut, with the next image seen through a clean lens (Nowadays, lots of filmmakers do this lens-spatter digitally).

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Not here. Lee spatters the lens and then makes it a longer take, blood still there as the camera pans down, after the violence has ended. Holy Uwe Boll.

Chance encounters, where strangers “know” Mary and her quest because “Word travels fast in these parts. Sometimes, faster’n the wind itself.”

And then? Hell’s bells, an “Alas, poor Yorick” after-dinner finale.

Whoever is giving this guy financing is throwing good money after bad. The actors taking role after role in his films (Kevin Makely seems to be Lee’s muse) will be deleting this from their resumes. There’s nothing they do on camera in this that would make a calling card for a next job with anybody in the business. It’s embarrassing.

So no more “Nice try,” no more “Better luck next time.” I’d watch most anything calling itself a Western, but  you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.

That’s why I’m trotting out the dread rating that I rarely use more than once or twice a year — no stars, zero, zip — blank — out of four. It isn’t a career killer (the guy has projects lined up into next year). But it should be cause to think about work-shopping scripts, working with a tougher producer or just…stopping until you figure out what the hell you’re doing.

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MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence

Cast: June Dietrich, Kevin Makely, Todd A. RobinsonMeg Foster, Lance Henriksen

Credits: Written and directed by Justin Lee. A VegaBaby/Sony release.

Running time: 1:20

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