Directed by Gregory Hoblit
As the story begins, Anthony Hopkins’ Ted Crawford discovers his wife is cheating on him, and when she arrives home, he shoots her in the head. When the investigating officer, who just happens to be his wife’s lover, arrives on the scene, it seems like an open and shut case because Crawford is found on the scene holding a gun next to his wife’s bleeding body, and even confesses to shooting her. As it happens, she doesn’t die from the gunshot wound but winds up in a coma, and the prosecutor assigned to the case is Ryan Gosling’s Willy Beechum, a young go-getter who after years of winning cases has decided to take a higher paying job with a high-profile firm. Thinking the Crawford case will be a piece of cake, he gets sucked in when challenged by Crawford, who chooses to defend himself, and as the case starts to fall apart, Beechum realizes that this might be the toughest case of his career.
“Fracture” starts off competently enough with the crime in question, shot in a way that would make Hitchcock proud, but when the Hopkins vs. Gosling conflict is introduced, you know you’re in for a dramatic actor-driven film that might be able to transcend its crime and courtroom drama roots. The problem is that those first twenty or thirty minutes are so good that when Hopkins leaves the movie for what seems like forever, it starts to drag and get dull. After an opening that makes it seem like it will be about Crawford, it becomes evident that really it’s about Beechum’s story arc, as he has to decide between doing the right thing or going for money and fame. We’ve seen similar character conflicts in crime dramas before, so it’s far less interesting than the way Crawford uses the legal system against itself. Most of the movie follows Gosling trying to find evidence against Crawford, while maintaining the delicate balance between his current job and boss, played by David Strathairn (“Good Night, And Good Luck.”), and his much hotter new boss, played by Rosamund Pike (“Pride & Prejudice.”) For the most part, there aren’t nearly enough shocks or twists along the way to keep “Fracture” from following the same predictable formula as other movies in the genre.
It’s too bad, since director Gregory Hoblit (“Primal Fear”) has made a decent looking film and Hopkins’ latest baddie really is an intriguing character, seemingly feeble and hapless at times but obviously a brilliant genius who would be a challenge to anyone he faces. Some might assume that Hopkins might use his popular Lecter persona to embellish Crawford, but that’s surprisingly not the case until the very end when those telltale inflections start to creep in. Up until that point, it’s entertaining to watch his verbal sparring with Gosling, and viewers might be convinced of Crawford’s innocence even after actually seeing him shoot his wife earlier. Gosling certainly has enough charm and chops to hold his own against a veteran powerhouse like Hopkins, while keeping things moving when Hopkins isn’t on screen, but the scenes between Gosling and his attractive new boss are the weakest, flat and lacking any emotion as they mysteriously become lovers without much explanation in scenes that one presumes were cut.
Strathairn isn’t bad as the boss who knows he can’t stop his star employee from leaving but has to push him to take Crawford’s case seriously, but it’s a shame that a talented actress like Embeth Davis (“Junebug”) is wasted in a role that has her lying in a coma for the entire movie. Another annoying aspect of otherwise decent performances are the inconsistent floating accents from Gosling’s on-again-off-again Southern twang to Hopkins’ foray into an Irish accent at times, while Pike seems to be going for something in between Welsh and Scandinavian.
Things start to fall apart for Beechum since he can’t find the evidence necessary to keep Crawford in jail, and his career and reputation are in danger of being destroyed if he doesn’t win what should have been an easy case. Once the solution to Crawford’s great mystery is finally revealed, it’s not particularly believable, but it’s also so simple and obvious that anyone who hasn’t figured it out is likely to be annoyed with themselves. At least Hopkins and Gosling have one more confrontation before it ends, but up until that point has included so much filler that the ending’s almost a bit of a let-down.
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