Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John V Soto
Stars: Jonathan Lapaglia, Viva Bianca, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Luke Hemsworth, Alex Williams, Amanda Dow.
The crime thriller is one of the few genres that Australian film makers seem to do well, and we have a superior example of the genre with Felony currently screening. The low budget crime drama The Reckoning will unfortunately struggle to receive even half the accolades and recognition that Matthew Saville’s drama has garnered.
This low budget local crime drama will probably be cynically identified as that film that starred the lesser known brothers of some well known Aussie actors who have carved out successful careers in Hollywood and established themselves in a couple of blockbuster franchises. Despite some early success of his own in tv series like New York Undercover, Jonathan Lapaglia will always be considered the younger brother of Anthony Lapaglia, star of hit tv series Without A Trace, while Luke Hemsworth remains firmly in the shadow of his siblings Chris Hemsworth (from Thor, The Avengers, etc) and Liam (The Hunger Games, etc). Hemsworth mainly appears in flashbacks here as his character is killed in the opening scene, so his role here doesn’t give him much to do.
When the film opens, detective Robbie Green (Lapaglia) and his partner Jane Lambert (Viva Bianca) are investigating the disappearance of a couple of teens – terminally ill runaway Rachel (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, from Acolytes, etc) and her troubled boyfriend AJ (Alex Williams, who played the young Julian Assange in tv movie Underground). Then they are called to investigate the murder of their colleague detective Pearson (Hemsworth) who is found shot to death in his own car.
At the scene, Green discovers a digital video data card that may holds clues to the murder. The footage shows Rachel apparently shooting a documentary in which she tries to investigate the hit and run death of her sister, which has not been investigated fully by the police. She retraces her sister’s footsteps, and her investigation takes her to a sleazy and dangerous underworld of drug dealers and corruption. But it also eventually places Green and his own family in jeopardy.
The Reckoning begins slowly and initially seems like a formulaic and cliched episode of Without A Trace, albeit using the found footage aesthetic. The film quickly picks up the pace and tension as it evolves into a dark thriller with its familiar noir like trappings of revenge, retribution and corruption. Writer/director John V Soto comes from a background in low budget paranormal horror films like Needle and Crush, etc, and he draws upon that experience to suffuse this police procedural with a darker edge. He also suffuses the material with a growing unease and a palpable sense of tension. Normally the use of hand held footage is off-putting, but here it serves to propel the narrative forwards, and keeps the audience on edge.
The performances of the cast are uniformly solid, with Mangan-Lawrence a standout as the psychologically damaged Rachel, suffusing her character with a mix of anger, frustration and a strong desire for justice. Lapaglia brings a hint of regret and guilt to his role as the alcoholic cop with dark personal secrets, and he brings some unexpected depth to what is initially a rather unlikeable character.
Jason Thomas’ cinematography adds to the moody atmosphere and he somehow makes the Perth streets seem menacing. But despite a taut script and some interesting characters The Reckoning is let down slightly by the constraints and limitations of the small budget.