Wednesday 13 March 2019

Movie Review: Fracture (2007)

A legal crime drama, Fracture boasts an intriguing mystery and two worthy opponents squaring off on opposite sides of the law, although the plot is not as smart as it wants to be.

In Los Angeles, aeronautical safety expert Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is aware that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair with police detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke). He waits for her to return home, shoots her in the head, and calmly surrenders to Nunally, confessing to being the shooter.

Hotshot deputy district attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is assigned the case by his boss Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn). Beachum is about to make a big money career move into the private sector to practice corporate law, and is already flirting with his boss-to-be Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike). The Crawford shooting appears to be a straightforward conviction, but Ted has meticulously planned his crime, and Willy will get sucked into a much more complicated case than he bargained for.

A cerebral chess game between a humiliated husband out for blood and a cocky prosecutor with one eye firmly on careerism, Fracture is a sharp and polished duel, benefitting enormously from the two lead actors. The showdown between veteran Anthony Hopkins and upstart Ryan Gosling is epic, and they are both at the top of their game. Hopkins is all about almost imperceptible eyebrow movements, knowing glances and shadows of smiles. Gosling is the confident steel of youth, riding his record of courtroom victories towards the dangerous land of arrogance.

But unfortunately the Daniel Pyne script cannot rise to the quality of the actors. Once Crawford's crime is committed and his intention to engage in a battle of wits revealed, Fracture stalls. Willy is quickly placed into a corner by Crawford's pre-planning, and director Gregory Hoblit is left stranded outside the courtroom and having to consume about 45 minutes of screen time without many plot developments. The lazy interval is half-heatedly invested in a side quest relationship between Willy and Nikki that sucks energy out of the main story without adding much relevant content.

The mechanisms available for Willy to eventually try and turn the tables are not difficult to guess, and the film's late reveals are not as clever as Pyne wishes them to be. However, there is some character depth along the way, particularly for Willy. Through his humbling encounter with a twisted but ingenious man, the deputy district attorney is provided the opportunity to reassess the legend in his own mind and redefine what matters most.

Although the acting aces the writing, Fracture is nevertheless an enjoyably discerning joust.

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