For a movie that opened on April 20th, this review is probably a little late. However, with the leaden Spider-Man 3 still sitting in our stomachs like a lump of dough, undercooked and unsatisfying; and with summer’s future prospects amounting to one sequel after another; the timing might just be perfect for the adult escape offered by the legal/psychological thriller Fracture starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling.
The movie begins with well-to-do aeronautical engineer Ted Crawford (Hopkins) spying on his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) cheating with another man at a fancy Los Angeles hotel. When she arrives home later that evening, Ted is waiting for her. He shoots her in the head and then calls the police to tell them he’s done it. Our first clue that Ted has a bigger plan than simple murder is revealed when the policeman Ted surrenders to turns out to be the man with whom Jennifer was cheating. Coincidence? Of course not.
Jennifer lives, albeit in a coma, and Ted confesses to the attempted murder. The high profile case is then offered to young, ambitious prosecutor Willy Beachum (Gosling). Willy comes from a lower class background and has worked very hard to get where he is. He has a 97 percent conviction rate and has just been offered a position at a high-powered private law firm. Intrigued perhaps by Ted who has chosen to represent himself, Willy allows the DA (David Strathairn) to convince him to take this one last case.
It seems to be a slam-dunk, but when the police discover that the supposed murder weapon has never been fired, it all begins to unravel. What began as simple, airtight case of a jealous husband attempting to murder his wife turns into a battle of wits between Willy and Ted. If Ted loses, obviously he will go to jail and if Willy loses, his chances in the private sector will likely be destroyed and his hard earned position in the district attorney’s office will be jeopardized.
The plot is pretty well put together, but there are two main flaws that keep the movie from really being outstanding. The first is that the stakes for Willy aren’t quite high enough. His job offer with the tony law firm seems a bit of a sell-out and though the prospect of losing it may be traumatic for Willy, it doesn’t seem so terrible to the viewer even with the added attraction of future boss Rosamund Pike. The lowered stakes deflated the drama for me a little bit. The second problem is that I saw how things were going to turn out at least 30 minutes before the characters in the movie. I’m not exactly Sherlock Holmes and normally this is a bad sign, but it’s still satisfying to watch the story unfold. This isn’t a movie that is built to wow you with its twists and turns. If you don’t see the resolution coming, terrific; if you do, that’s OK.
One of the main pleasures of Fracture is just watching the talented actors do their thing. Hopkins is great as the wily engineer who seems to enjoy watching his cleverly laid trap being sprung and who always seems to be one step ahead of his accusers. Gosling showed he could act in Half Nelson and his turn here as the charming but cocky prosecutor who may have met his match shows he can shine in bigger budget fare as well. He more than holds his own in scenes with the veteran Hopkins.
In the end, Fracture is a solidly entertaining Saturday afternoon at the movies. That sounds like faint praise, but in this season of overstuffed, overpriced and overhyped blockbusters which promise much while delivering little, it’s a high compliment. Go ahead and drop the kiddies off at Shrek the Third for more animated fart and puke jokes then sit yourself down with Ryan Gosling, Anthony Hopkins, a bag of popcorn and Fracture. You could do a lot worse.
Fracture: USA 2007. Directed by Gary Hoblit. Written by Glenn Gers and Daniel Pyne. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn and Rosamund Pike. 1 hour 52 minutes. MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent content. 3 stars (out of 5)