April 22, 2007

Movie Review: Fracture

So, Gaspard Ulliel failed to give you that old time Hannibal itch that needed scratching. Well, you may now be able to satisfy that itch. No, this is not a a new entry in the Hannibal series, but it does feature Anthony Hopkins in a deliciously twisted role that has him facing off with the forces of good. No, it is not a horror movie, but it does deliver murder and an ingenius way of covering it up. Fracture is an effective crime thriller featuring strong performances in its two leads. It is a filled with tense drama, surprising humor, and is one of the best thrillers so far this year.

Ryan Gosling stars as Will Beachum, a sly, cocksure assistant district attorney whose impressive conviction record has allowed him to rise up the ranks in a short period of time. His rising stock has attracted the attention of a high powered private firm that brings the promise of big money and a whole new lifestyle. Before he can leave his public job behind, he has one more case to try, and it promises to be the toughest one he has faced yet, putting his future in jeopardy.

Anthony Hopkins is the defendant,Ted Crawford, an engineer of some sort with an intelignece level that is off the charts. He is in a union that is merely the semblance of a marriage, so he decides to end it. The trailers show Crawford pulling a weapon and shooting his wife in the head. What follows this event is Hopkins facing off with Beachum in a battle of wits, the old guard taking on the new guard.

This is a thriller that doesn't rely on twists and shocks. All of its shock cards are played in the marketing, the film itself follows the unfolding of the criminal case. It is a play of words, a tale of facts unfolding in a straight up manner that allows the actors to ply their trade to sell the story.

When Hopkins and Gosling are the featured players the tale soars, but when the interaction is Gosling and a few choice others, it falters through some poor character chemistry. In particular Gosling and Rosamund Pike, who plays Goslings private sector boss and love interest. There is just a very poor connection between the two and their scenes together fall flat, leaving little impact. Likewise, I was not sold on the character of David Nunally, played by Billy Burke, his role of the adulterous detective isn't terribly strong outside of the requisite plot points that he is there to divulge. Then the ending isn't quite the big reveal hoped for, but I still found it to be rather satisfying.

Now, in other movies, those flaws could be more than enough to sink it. However, Fracture survives on the wonderful performances from the two leads, Hopkins in particular. Hopkins brings dark menace and sly humor to the role, he brings a confidence only someone like he can. Few actors can portray the menace that he can, his mere presence on the screen is electric and commands attention. Gosling has an interesting arc himself, dealing with the ego and his drive for success, perfection, and, eventually, redemption. He does a fine job of bringing this character to life and his face offs with Hopkins are fantastic. The movie features old, smarts against an up and coming sharp mind. In a way it mirrors the actors in these roles, with Hopkins as the reliable old guard and Gosling as the up and coming star of the future.

The film was directed by Gregory Hoblit who gives the film a dark feel, yet doesn't try to do any crazy gymnastics, rather letting the actors carry the tense drama. The screenplay by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers has a nice pace and is filled with great lines, dialogue driven tension, unexpected humor, allowing the actors to really dig in and have a little fun with it.

Overall, Fracture is a satisfying thriller that manages to succed in spite of its flaws. It features fine performances, nice art direction, and a welcome straightforward delivery. I found it to be involving and much more enjoyable than I had expected. It is one of the better thrillers to reach cinemas so far this year.



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