It’s always a frustrating predicament when the performances in a film are so unabashedly superior to its script that, on acting alone, it’s almost recommendable. Director Gregory Hoblit’s Fracture is such a specimen; a film whose lead performances, by Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, are engaging and chock full of the kind of tics only superior actors are capable of. Unfortunately, the story, while initially intriguing, ultimately disintegrates into mush with a side helping of an unsatisfactory ending.
Hopkins is Ted Crawford, a well-to-do aeronautical engineer who catches his wife frolicking in the pool with a young man as the film opens. Ted doesn’t take to the new man too well and ends up shooting his wife, Jennifer (Davidtz), in the head. The cops, led by Rob Nunally (Burke), arrive at the scene to find Ted in the house standing next to his wife, who is still alive. Ted confesses to shooting her.
Enter Willy Beachum (Gosling), a hotshot assistant DA who has already turned in his to weeks to move on to a more glamorous position with one of LA’s top firms. He is approached to prosecute Crawford’s case. Seeing that it should be as open-and-shut as cases come, Beachum takes it on. But not so fast, a series of technicalities arise and Crawford is set free. Thus begins a deceptive game between Crawford and Beachum, and may craftiest guy win.
Hopkins and Gosling take turns owning the screen. Hopkins delivers his quips with the kind of devilish half-smile we expect out of him in such a role, and his ability to be a wise guy one minute and a legitimate threat the next is what keeps Fracture from coming completely unhinged. Gosling goes up against him without fear, echoing the kind of talent too few people saw in Half Nelson.
But then there’s that darn story. The screenplay, by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers, strains plausibility to the point of distraction. Sure, there are improbably coincidences and clichés, but are we honestly supposed to entertain the idea that the police have a signed confession and cannot find one piece of damning evidence to put Crawford away? Such ridiculousness can make for entertaining theater, but at least put a solid ending on it to make it all worthwhile.
Legal thrillers are fewer-and-far between these days, and Fracture certainly has enough talent involved that it should have delivered. Hopkins and Gosling are terrific, but not even the work of their lives could have saved this ludicrous, and ultimately tedious, effort. Let this be a lesson to screenwriters everywhere.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 112 Minutes
Rating: R for language and some violent content.
Theatrical Release: April 20, 2007
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Written by: Daniel Pyne & Glenn Gers.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, Billy Burke