review by: THE THIRD
Over the last few years there’s been an explosion of action movies with women playing the lead role. Genres like sci-fi and suspense, once dominated by male leads, have found new life by having the “Shero” handle her own business. No longer playing the supporting role, which is refreshing and real. The depiction on screenn albeit fiction, has served as a wake up call for some that the word “role”, for a woman, is only applicable if her career is acting. Most genres have made the transition, but there is one that’s still experimenting with the transition and its somewhat understandable.
Indeed movies are works of fiction, but period pieces with a heavy historical context will more than often depict the archetypes of that period. The western has typically stayed true to this. But in A RECKONING the western might have finally crossed the threshold. Set circa the civil war A RECKONING, directed by Justin Lee, is the story of homesteader Mary O’Malley (June Dietrich) who is a recently made widow that refuses to accept her husbands’ death at the hands of a serial killer in the wilderness of 1800’s Oregon. A RECKONING is the story of Mary’s need for vengeance. Mary sets out to hunt down her husbands’ killer with very little survival skills. She says her father taught her a little about shooting, but she’s never shot anyone before. Now the good ole men folk assure Mary that it will be handled and that she should take the money left over and return to civilization, where life is safer for a widow. Up until this point it’s the standard western. Until Mary sets out on her quest and we truly see the difficulties of her task. Being that there’s a bounty for the killer Mary has to also deal with her competition. Men who will easily kill an acquaintance over the reward, let alone some skinny widow caught in her feelings looking to get herself killed.
Ironically, it’s the male chauvinism that keeps Mary alive. She doesn’t pose a threat in their eyes so she gets to escape many near death experiences with a warning. And in the movie, like it’s been for generations in society, its this folly of men overlooking the strength of a woman which Mary uses to her advantage. She learns information about the killer, that she might not have learned had she been a man. Her battle with the killer is very telling scene. We learn what can happen to people left in the wilderness with no food sourcen and its not a pretty sight.
But the story here for me is her journey. Using her natural gifts as well as being given a pass, despite of them. And her drive to succeed, which causes her to her pick up new skills that will surely serve her well in the future, especially in the man driven world of the period. A RECKONING isn’t about Mary’s decision for revenge. Her decision to challenge the status quo regardless of the odds is what its about. I left asking how many more women were there that had to survive when their husbands died. I think A RECKONING has pushed the envelope, and in the near future we might start seeing a complete depiction of American history.