DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FRACTURE (director: Gregory Hoblit; screenwriters: Daniel Pyne/Glenn Gers; cinematographer: Kramer Morgenthau; editor: David Rosenbloom; music: Mychael Danna/Jeff Danna; cast: Anthony Hopkins (Ted Crawford), Ryan Gosling (Willy Beachum), David Strathairn (Joe Lobruto), Embeth Davidtz (Jennifer Crawford), Billy Burke (Lt. Rob Nunally), Rosamund Pike (Nikki); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Charles Weinstock; New Line Cinema; 2007)

 
"Delivers the thrills and makes us care if the diabolically clever killer will get his comeuppance."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gregory Hoblit ("Primal Fear") helms a solid twisty mystery thriller/courtroom drama, filled with engaging mind games between the smarty-pants over-the-top murder defendant and the aggressively confidant quick thinking prosecuting attorney. It's glibly written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers with sparkling dialogue and has a great premise and set-up, and is superbly acted by veteran scene stealer Anthony Hopkins and rising new star Ryan Gosling. For television fans, it should remind them of ‘Law And Order’. 

Ambitious hot-shot Los Angeles assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), with a record of 97% convictions, has one foot out the door as he takes this last assignment as a public servant, a supposedly slam-dunk murder confession case, before leaving for the lucrative corporate world. Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is the middle-aged wealthy engineer who is the head of a structural aeronautics's firm, who has shot his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) in the temple at point-blank range, leaving her in a coma, and confessed. Things get complicated when the trial soon begins and it's learned the arresting officer and the confession taker, Lt. Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), was having an affair with the alleged killer's wife. Further trouble for the case comes when the bullet shells found on the crime scene floor don't match the gun Crawford possessed, which was never fired, and since Crawford's ultra-modern gated glassy mansion was watched there was no explainable way the real murder weapon could have disappeared.

Willy, who is light on his feet and has a Southern accent, gets his ego bruised as the cunning Crawford, whom we know is guilty, outsmarts his younger opponent and beats the rap when the confession is tossed and there's no further evidence introduced that stands up to the law. But that's when the cat-and-mouse game kicks into high gear and the fun is in watching the two different styled actors get over and the story seamlessly navigate over some loose ends in the plot. The hammy Hopkins does his all too familiar (though still enjoyable) Hannibal Lecter character tricks, from simpering smiles of menace, arrogant looks and nasty smirks that make you want to hate him and congratulate him at the same time for his smug cleverness. Again he's the smartest guy on the planet and the delusional psycho capable of cold-blooded murder, who this time schemed the perfect murder of his unfaithful wife and loves taunting the inferior legal eagles trying to pin his ears back. Gosling's acting style is more low key, just going with the flow in comparison with Hopkins, who does so many things on screen to call attention to how superior he is to the younger actor. By not trying to match his adversary, Gosling lets the story come to him and ends up letting the viewer examine him and make their own judgments if he really cares about justice or is it just his ego at stake that makes him so involved. We get a chance to watch the social-climbing Gosling screen character cross over to the fast-lane and mingle with the rich elite he aspires to, and observe how he's latched onto the beautiful trophy girlfriend and underhanded lawyer, Nikki (Rosamund Pike), from his new upper-end private sector law firm, who's around as a pretty decoration to show what he wins by moving up in the world. If the low-paid lawyer stays put serving the public as a dedicated prosecutor, he can end up like Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn), his mentor boss and moral voice, who is in it for the thrill of once in awhile nailing the bad dude who really deserved to get punished. 

Everything about it is pulp and fairly predictable, but as implausible as it plays out it still presents some moral underpinnings, delivers the thrills and makes us care if the diabolically clever killer will get his comeuppance.

REVIEWED ON 4/20/2007        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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