Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn,
Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz. Rated R.
There is little mystery at the heart of Fracture, the
new thriller from Frequency director Gregory Hoblit. It is aggressively
paced, twisting and turning its way toward a rewarding climax, but as rousing
as the journey may be, the destination is never in doubt. It begins with a
bang, quite literally, when wealthy engineer Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins)
shoots his younger wife after discovering her affair with a handsome detective
(Billy Burke). Police arrive, and Crawford readily admits to the crime,
surrendering his gun and even signing a written confession. The trial, it
seems, is a mere formality.
Or is it? Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a hotshot lawyer
ready to go corporate after a successful stint in the District Attorney’s
office, certainly thinks so. But holes in his case begin to emerge. The weapon
seized at the scene isn’t a match. Crawford’s confession is thrown out of
court. And his wife lies paralyzed in a coma, unable to finger her assailant.
It’s a dilemma of Hitchcockian proportions, and Beachum, who cockily strutted
into the courtroom assured of an easy victory, is suddenly on the verge of
losing the case and his cushy new job.
Whatever its flaws – and there are some – Fracture is
clever and absorbing from the start. Unlike so many contemporary thrillers, it
never cheats; there are times when screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers
seem to have painted themselves into a corner, but, remarkably, they tie up
every loose end in a way that withstands scrutiny. There are scenes that feel
needlessly self-important, and a melodramatic misstep or two, but just as the
story seems ready to spiral out of control, Fracture acquits itself
Much will be made of Hopkins’ performance, and deservedly
so, but Gosling proves a worthy adversary, gamely matching his senior sparring
partner’s steely intensity. On the heels of his Oscar-nominated turn in Half
Nelson, Gosling relies once again on subtlety and nuance, his eyes burning
with ambition and desire, his wan smile betraying the smug self-confidence that
might just prove his undoing. Casually engaging though he seems, beneath the
surface lurks a fierce competitor lusting compulsively after success.
As written, Beachum is not nearly as layered or
emotionally complex as Dan Dunne, the crack-addicted schoolteacher from Half
Nelson. No matter – Gosling makes him just as real, holding his own against
Hopkins, whose Crawford inevitably recalls Hannibal Lecter, but with one
significant difference. Lecter always knew he was the smartest man in the room,
but Crawford feels the need to prove it, over and over, until at long last he overplays