|Anthony Hopkins||Ted Crawford|
|Ryan Gosling||Willy Beachum|
|David Strathairn||DA Joe Lobruto|
|Rosamund Pike||Nikki Gardner|
|Embeth Davidtz||Jennifer Crawford|
|Billy Burke||Rob Nunally|
|Directed by||Gregory Hoblit|
Fracture is the kind of polished cat-and-mouse movie thriller that depends entirely on the cat and the mouse having read and agreed to the script in advance. Synergy is everything; while the principals may appear to be in conflict, they are in fact working together like Ben and Jerry to fashion a confection that will tickle the palate. A false (which is to say unchoreographed) move by anyone at any time would queer the deal.
Happily, everyone stays on script, and the thing plays out for our entertainment. Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is an aeronautical engineer, rich and successful. Among the perks he enjoys is a trophy wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz). She?s young and beautiful, and in love with someone else. ?Yet each man kills the thing he loves,? as Oscar Wilde once noted, and Crawford solves his romantic dilemma by putting a bullet in his wife?s head.
The cops show up, and as nobody outside knows what?s gone on inside the house, they bring with them a hostage negotiator, Rob Nunnally (Billy Burke). He turns out to be none other than Jennifer?s lover. This is the kind of serendipity you can?t guarantee in real life, which is what makes movies so far superior to that other condition. And the pieces begin to fall into place.
It would appear to be an open and shut case. It will be handled by young Assistant D.A. Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a tyro with a 97% conviction rate. You worry a little about that other 3%, but Willy is cashing in his won-lost record and heading to a posh corporate law firm where his income will be obscene and his boss will be the cool, lovely Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike), a blonde with ice in her heart and fire in her loins.
Willy is up from the mean streets. How poor was he? He was so poor he couldn?t even afford a middle initial. When Nikki?s father, a WASPy judge, tells him there can be more satisfaction in putting away bad guys than in making a bundle, Willy replies politely that he usually hears that from rich people.
So Willy is on his way to greener corporate pastures when DA Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn) asks him to handle the Crawford murder. With a signed confession from Crawford, it?s just a formality. Still, the DA warns him not to take the case too lightly. Sure, sure.
It looks even more like a slam dunk when Crawford insists on acting as his own counsel in court. Willy, apparently not recognizing Crawford?s uncanny resemblance to Hannibal Lechter, offers no objection. And the game is on.
There?s a shift in the dynamic at this point. The original mouse to Crawford?s cat was Nunnally, the cop whose canoodling of Jennifer triggered this whole unfortunate situation. But now, like Mariano Rivera making an early entrance from the bull pen, Willy takes the ball. This removes the personal element from Crawford?s game, but it does set up a fairer fight: the brilliant, wickedly scheming old murderer vs. the brilliant, upwardly mobile young courtroom shark.
Without giving away anything about the ending, it?s safe to say that the cocky young Assistant DA is in line for some serious come-uppance at the hands of the wily old fox. Crawford?s engineering specialty is fracture mechanics, the science of identifying the weak spot in a system. ?You look closely enough,? he says, ?you?ll find that everything has a place where it can break, sooner or later.? And he nails Willy?s soft spot, which is having his eyes on the wrong prize. What exactly Willy might have done differently if he had been more focused on this case I leave it to you to try to figure out.
Director Gregory Hoblit made his mark a decade ago with Primal Fear, another twist-stuffed courtroom adventure. Here he returns to the scene of the crime, so to speak, with a head-scratcher which turns not on guilt or innocence, but on conviction or acquittal. Screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers show us the villainous deed up front, and they give us most of the information we need to unravel the diabolical scheme Crawford has set up.
Fracture is a movie with far more surface polish than depth. It?s the presence of Hopkins and Gosling that deliver the fuel to kick it into a higher gear. Hopkins gives his character a roguish leprechaun playfulness, a chortling delight in his own cleverness which sometimes seems more geared to a movie audience than the situation he?s in. But Sir Anthony knows how to command the screen, and even when he?s annoying he?s entertaining. Gosling, who overcame his Mickey Mouse Club roots and then vaulted onto the A-list with his Oscar nomination for last year?s Half Nelson, holds his own with an intriguing combination of hayseed and street-smart operator.
One of Fracture?s more enjoyable visuals is the polished metal gravity devices Crawford builds as a hobby. Place a marble at the top of the contraption and it rolls in perpetual motion ? unless the thing is slightly out of whack, in which case the marble falls to the floor. A slight adjustment, and it?s back in business. This is a metaphor, and a damned clever one, although I?m not completely sure for what.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be