New Line // 2007 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 6th, 2007
"I got the gun, and I shot her in the head."
-- Ted Crawford
Anthony Hopkins was a high-caliber, respected actor who was not a household name until his breakthrough at age 53 in 1991's Silence of the Lambs. Ryan Gosling's breakthrough came in 2001 at age 20 with The Believer. He has followed that up with popular fare such as The Notebook and Half Nelson, which netted him an Oscar nomination. Now these two standard-bearers of acting excellence for their respective generations square off in the crime drama Fracture. Did they find a vehicle worthy of their talents?
Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is a super-wealthy engineering genius with a hot young wife. Unfortunately, the missus is doing the extramarital shuffle with a hunky, age-appropriate guy, Last Tango in Paris-style (no personal history, no names, they just call each other Mr. and Mrs. Smith). Being a genius, Ted figures this out and expresses his displeasure by planting a bullet in wifey's head, grievously injuring, though not killing, her. When the gardener reports the shots to the police, they send out a team of hostage negotiators led by none other than Mr. Smith himself, who is actually Lieutenant Rob Nunally (Billy Burke, Ladder 49). Shocked at the sight of his injured mistress (remember that whole "no names" thing), Nunally says nothing. Ted confesses his deed and is summarily punched out by his not-quite-dead wife's lover.
Willy Beachum (Gosling) is the young hot dog in the DA's office, with a 97 percent win rate and a new job waiting for him at a high-end corporate firm. He agrees to do Ted's arraignment, which should be easy since Ted has already confessed and the police have the weapon. Someone else from the office will do the prosecuting. But when Ted (who's defending himself) and Willy see each other across the courtroom, their eyes meet and something passes between them, like Farmer Hoggett and Babe. Ted demands that Willy be his prosecutor. (I've never heard of defendants handpicking a DA, but...)
Will Willy -- who hates to lose, but knows this is an easy win -- delay his new job and take this challenge? And will this case be the piece of cake he expects it to be?
Of course he takes the case. And of course it's no cakewalk. There wouldn't be a movie otherwise.
Fracture is an utterly preposterous legal drama/thriller given class and credibility by its lead actors.
Hopkins's Ted hides his deviousness behind a shambling exterior. Because he is locked in our consciousness forever as Hannibal Lecter, we know his mumblings and stumblings disguise evil. (That, plus we do see him blow out the little woman's brains in the opening moments.) Hopkins is a magnet -- you can't take your eyes off him -- and the more the plot contrivances pile up, the more fun Hopkins seems to be having.
But Ted is a supporting character (as was Hannibal, actually). The real star here is Ryan Gosling as Willy. Sporting the kind of coal-country accent you'd expect to hear at Clarice Starling's family reunion, Willy is a flawed golden boy, talented but arrogant, and we enjoy seeing his comeuppance. His belief in the open-and-shut nature of the case makes him lazy, and of course, later he becomes obsessed. We've seen this character a thousand times before, but Gosling almost makes it seem fresh through sheer force of personality.
Perhaps the people behind Fracture were hoping for a Silence of the Lambs redux, what with maniacal genius Hopkins (sporting an Irish lilt) and working-class hero Gosling stepping in for Jodie Foster. But Ted Crawford is no Hannibal Lecter, and the coincidence-ridden script is more dependent on luck than cunning. Ted's grand plan involves some felicitous missteps and choices that others make, such as the police treating the shooting as a hostage situation. As a matter-of-fact, Ted's "genius" is a bit overstated: When he trips up, it's because of something that he easily could have seen coming. Unfortunately, the denouement also has less to do with Willy's crackerjack legal eye than with yet another few bits of happenstance.
There's a romantic subplot between Willy and his new supervisor (Rosamund Pike, Die Another Day) that seems forced and phony (wouldn't a senior associate in a corporate firm know better than to bed down with a new hire?). Plot-wise, it serves no purpose other than to keep Willy's ties to the firm while he's trying Ted's case and later to provide a bit of unnecessary conflict. There is also a profoundly stupid and offensive bit of business about terminating life support.
New Line gives us a good transfer and a nice 5.1 Surround audio mix, but scrimps on the extras. Besides trailers, we get deleted scenes (which, typically, are better off deleted) and two alternate endings. Both give us essentially the same "Gotcha!" These two scenes run about 11 minutes each and are exactly the same except for some inserts at the end of the second. I was hoping that at least one of the endings would give us a different spin, show a different character coming out ahead, but that was not to be. (The ending that made it into the film sets up the reveal with yet another contrivance, this one involving cell phones.)
While we are spared the kind of backslapping commentary we often get from writers and directors of "clever" thrillers, it's too bad we don't get to hear from Hopkins and Gosling. Without them, there would have been no movie; lesser actors would have sent this one straight to DVD or cable.
The disc also includes DVD-ROM options that require a program call InterActual, which is included on the DVD. Unfortunately, while the disc played fine, I could not get the ROM portions to work, despite frequent visits to the InterActual help site (that includes advice posted as far back as 2001), downloads, updates, etc.
OK, so it's not a great movie. It's fun and easy to get through, and Hopkins and Gosling are great. Fracture is like a plate of nachos: You enjoy it, it sits for a while, and, with any luck, it passes quickly.
I really enjoy intelligent thrillers that keep me guessing and was hoping Fracture would be such a movie. It isn't. Fracture is all set-up and contrivance.
I have no problem with the occasional deus ex machina to move the plot along, but this film is all deus ex machina. Guilty of lazy writing and plotting. Hopkins and Gosling are free to go and find better projects, hopefully together.
Review content copyright © 2007 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Endings
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site