As The Reckoning unfolds onscreen, somewhere in the audience there is a television executive thinking to himself, "I've got it! A new spinoff of C.S.I. … set in the 1380s!"
The Reckoning is an old-fashioned medieval murder mystery, full of priests, traveling entertainers, dank stony passageways, and castle dungeons. But it is told with a modern sensibility—its hero is forward-thinking, preoccupied with the empirical analysis of dead bodies. The "dark ages," as they were called before the Enlightenment came along and cured all our ills with science and technology (yes, that's sarcasm), were a hard time for investigators. After all, there were no police helicopters, no fingerprint databases, no cell phones, and the authorities were about as interested in peasant affairs as they were in cattle affairs. Autopsies were a real mess. Forensic science was in its infancy. And it was hard to tell one suspect from the next because of the popularity of dark cowls, cloaks and hoods.
Nicholas (Master and Commander's Paul Bettany) is a fugitive priest running from angry villagers who caught him in adultery. Fearful and wounded by guilt, he disguises himself by cutting his hair, pulling up his hood, and resembling the Satan in Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ.
During his flight through foggy ol' England, he stumbles onto a not-so-merry band of players, the sort that Hamlet was so happy to see rumbling into town. The actors have recently suffered the loss in their family, and Nicholas eagerly volunteers to step in and fill the void. The company is not thrilled with the idea, for reasons that they keep to themselves. But their leader Martin (Willem Dafoe) accepts Nicholas due to a certain like-mindedness. This sets grouchy ...