The Reckoning (1970 film)

The Reckoning is a 1970 British drama film released by Columbia Pictures directed by Jack Gold and starring Nicol Williamson, Ann Bell, Rachel Roberts and Zena Walker.[1] It features music by Malcolm Arnold.

The Reckoning
Directed byJack Gold
Produced byRonald Shedlo
Screenplay byJohn McGrath
Based onThe Reckoning
by Patrick Hall
StarringNicol Williamson
Ann Bell
Rachel Roberts
Zena Walker
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byPeter Weatherley
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • January 1970 (1970-01) (London, premiere)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Michael "Mick" Marler has risen through the ranks at Grenfell, a large British company specializing in business machines. Despite his drive and polished air, Mick comes from a tough working-class background, and has worked hard to fit into the posh world in which he and his social-climbing wife Rosemary live. His marriage consists of little more than animalistic lovemaking in between traded insults and long silences with his wife.

One morning, while Mick is trying to save his boss, John Hazlitt, from losing face in the company from mistakes and sagging sales in his division, he convinces Hazlitt to push the company board to enter the computer market, something that they had decided against in the late 1950s. After his idea is readily accepted by Hazlitt, Mick gets a call from Rosemary informing him that his father, John Joe, is near death in Liverpool. Mick wants to leave immediately, but is coerced into first completing a report for Hazlitt. Despite his new wealth, Mick has remained a tough, but sentimental, Liverpudlian of Irish descent. He then drives his Jaguar to the working class Liverpool neighbourhood where he grew up and is forced to address the sizeable chip on his shoulder.

When he gets to his father's bedside, he is shattered to discover that John Joe has died. When Mick lovingly kisses his father, he is disturbed to see several dark bruises on the body. After questioning his mother, his sister Kath, the parish priest and the family physician Dr. Carolan, Mick goes to the local Irish social hall to speak with Cocky Burke, his father's best friend. Cocky tells Mick that John Joe, who was a popular amateur Irish balladeer, had a heart attack at a pub after some English "Teddy boys" started a fight, then punched and kicked him. Mick tries to convince Cocky to go to the police, but Cocky, who hates and distrusts the English authorities, tells Mick that he must avenge his father.

Angered by his phone call to Rosemary who expresses great reluctance to come to the funeral, Mick returns to the hall. Soon after, he is spirited away by Joyce Eglington, Dr. Carolan's nurse, when the police arrive to break up a fight that has started during an exhibition wrestling match. Although she is married, Joyce is no longer sexually satisfied by her husband and lets Mick know how exciting she finds him. They then go to Mick's parents' house and make love in Mick's old bedroom, prompting him to say that he is beginning to feel like his old self. In the morning, Mick awakens after Joyce has gone, but finds a note containing her address and decides to keep it.

Returning to London, Mick and Hazlitt have a successful meeting with their board of directors, after which Mick goes home and wants to make love to Rosemary. When she tells him that she is still giving the party she had planned for that night, he angrily leaves to go drinking with his best friend, Brunzy.

Hours later, they stumble into the party, where an embittered Mick makes a drunken scene and punches Sir Miles Bishton, one of his company's directors. Everyone, including a livid Rosemary, leaves after Mick rants about doing dirty work for English gentlemen. The next day, Hazlitt admonishes Mick for his behaviour and threatens that he will be dismissed when Moyle, the head of their company, returns from his business trip. At home, despite Mick's attempts to get her into bed, Rosemary resists his advances, packs her things and leaves.

Hearing from Cocky that the magistrate has ruled John Joe's death accidental, Mick again drives north to Liverpool. Instead of staying with his mother, Mick checks into a small, out of the way hotel, then goes to the local branch of his company and asks to borrow a small, older model car, which he drives to a spot not far from his hotel. Mick then drives his Jaguar to the front of the hotel and goes inside, telling the manager that he has a splitting headache and plans to spend the entire night in bed. Adding that he will need to put the car away, the sympathetic manager gives Mick something for his headache and tells him the car is perfectly alright where it is.

When it is dark, Mick sneaks out the window of his room, gets into the smaller car, drives to the social hall and waits outside. Soon Jones, the Teddy boy whom Cocky had identified as John Joe's attacker, arrives, prompting Mick to go after him with a metal pipe. The frightened Jones cowers, imploring Mick not to hit him, but after a moment's hesitation, Mick savagely strikes him several times. The next morning, when Mick checks out of his hotel, the manager tells him that the police came looking for him, asking where he was the previous evening, but she assured them that he had been in his room all night.

Later, Mick drives toward the address that Joyce had given him, but when he sees her in the distance walking with two young children, he drives away. When he returns to his mother's house to say goodbye, she privately tells him that the police had been there and softly says "You're a bad lad." Bidding farewell to her affectionately, Mick says that he always was, then leaves.

On his way home, pondering his situation, Mick suddenly thinks of Hilda Greening, Hazlitt's secretary, whom he knows is attracted to him. He goes to her flat and, playing on her affections, seduces her and cajoles her into revealing damaging information about Hazlitt. The next day, when Moyle summons Mick to his office, Mick pretends to be reluctant to say anything bad about Hazlitt, but quickly lets it be known that, for years, Hazlitt had stolen ideas from his underlings - then, when he was being held accountable for errors in judgment, placed the blame on them. Remembering that men Hazlitt has dismissed have gone on to successful careers with competitors, Moyle says that he is letting Hazlitt go and promoting Mick to his position. Moyle assumes that Mick will want to keep Hilda as his assistant, but Mick declines, saying that she is not trustworthy. Having a celebratory drink together, Moyle expresses sympathy about Rosemary leaving, but when Mick says she will not be back, Moyle assures him that she will.

Subsequently, as a reconciled Mick and Rosemary are driving on a motorway, he recklessly speeds past a construction barrier and narrowly misses crashing the car into an oncoming truck. Exhilarated, Mick says, "If I can get away with that, I can get away with anything."



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