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Nothing Can Put This Film Back Together

If it’s Friday, it must be time for another psychological/suspense thriller. Like clockwork, Fracture, a psychological thriller/courtroom drama directed by Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War, Frequency, Primal Fear) and written by Daniel Pyne (The Sum of All Fears, Any Given Sunday) and Glenn Gers (My Brother's Keeper), arrives at your local multiplex, with ads and posters that pits the lead actors, Anthony Hopkins, representing the Old Guard, and Ryan Gosling, representing the New Guard, against each other in the proverbial battle of wits. As promising as that might sound, the end result is far from meeting that promise, weakly delivering barely adequate dramatic and emotional payoffs.

The wealthy owner of an aeronautics company, Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), seemingly has it all, a beautiful, significantly younger wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), a beautiful glass-and-cement house in the Encino hills, and an expensive sports car. What Crawford no longer has is his wife’s love or devotion. Crawford receives bitter confirmation when he spots his wife at a hotel with another man, Rob Nunally (Billy Burke). Returning home later that evening, Crawford confronts his wife with her infidelity and shoots her at point-blank range. After the police arrive at his home, he surrenders to the police, who arrest him for attempted murder moments after he confesses.

For assistant district attorney, Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), Crawford’s case is as close to an open-and-shut case as he’s had working in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. As it is, Beachum’s a short-timer. His 97% conviction rate attracts the attention of a corporate law firm that’s already made him a job offer he couldn’t turn down. Corporate law looks even better when he meets his prospective mentor, Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike), a sharp-witted, attractive senior associate with an eye on a partnership at the firm. With two weeks left as an assistant district attorney, Beachum expects one last, easy case. At the arraignment, Crawford sizes up the distracted, tuxedo-wearing Beachum and decides to represent himself.

Fracture fits loosely into the psychological thriller/courtroom drama sub-genre. As a courtroom drama, Fracture takes place mostly outside the courtroom, but unfortunately the scenes that take place in the courtroom are, at best, perfunctory. Contrary to the TV ads that describe it as “Hitchcockian", Fracture has little suspense and even fewer thrills to engage moviegoers.

Anyone using the word “Hitchcockian” in relation to Fracture needs to go back and actually watch some Hitchcock (e.g. North by Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window) before using it in an advertisement to sell moviegoers on something that’s not even there.

Story wise, Fracture starts off credibly enough before slipping into implausibility and never looking back. We’re expected to believe not only that Crawford is a mastermind who can meticulously plan the "perfect crime," but also manipulate everything and everyone around him like inanimate chess pieces without will of their own. One small change in behavior and his plan falls apart and he ends up in jail. Fracture then stacks up implausibilities on top of improbabilities until it takes us to the obligatory courtroom scene (which goes nowhere), dubious legal gamesmanship by the newly re-energized Beachum, and the face-to-face confrontation we’ve been eagerly anticipating since their first meeting early on.

Story aside, Fracture has more than a few points in its favor, starting with the striking cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau (Havoc, Godsend), Paul Eads (Frequency) coolly modern production design, Hoblit’s competent handling of the mise-en-scene, and, of course, Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Hopkins gives a surprisingly subdued performance as the sociopathic, brilliant Crawford and Gosling brings what’s becoming his trademark as an actor, a shifting set of mannerisms that bring a freshness and vitality to his performances while always appearing organic to the character he’s playing. Too bad Hopkins and Gosling are let down by a convoluted, contrived screenplay that requires moviegoers to put aside logic, causality, and psychology just to be minimally entertained.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars