Here’s the dilemma: You’re a young assistant DA who is something of a wizard in the courtroom. In your last case before leaving public service for a high paying job at a fancy legal firm you are faced with a man who is clearly guilty, but you just can’t put your finger on the crucial piece of evidence that will put him on death row. How far do you go to put him behind bars? Such is the question facing Oscar nominated Canadian Ryan Gosling in the new courtroom thriller Fracture.
Fracture doesn’t exactly break new ground in the legal drama genre—Primal Fear, also from director Gregory Hoblit, tread the same ground a decade ago—but there’s no grounds for a dismissal either. The movie’s premise may be a little frayed around the edges and the are more than a couple of fissures in Fracture’s plot, but the performances of the film’s leads, Gosling and Anthony Hopkins, make it worth the price of admission.
Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a wealthy aeronautical engineer, who discovers his wife is having an affair. When she returns home one night after some afternoon delight with her cop lover, Hopkins calmly and coolly shoots her in the face. The police arrive, he confesses and is arrested. It should be an open and shut case, but of course there’d be no movie if it were that simple. What may look like a crime of passion was actually a well thought out execution, and difficult to prove.
Hopkins plays Crawford as though he was portraying Hannibal Lecter’s creepy brother—he’s cunning, has a genius level IQ and an annoying condescending tone. When he bests Gosling’s smarty-pants Willie Beachum in a game of wits, he sneers by way of consolation, “Even a broken clock gets the time right twice a day.”
There is an echo of the Lecter – Starling tension in the interaction between Hopkins and Gosling, and while nothing in this movie comes close to the atmosphere of dread in Silence of the Lambs it is fun to watch these two great actors spar.
They really are the main reason to see Fracture. The big twist at the end is pure Jessica Fletcher and not particularly shocking—anyone schooled in the Law and Order brand of courtroom maneuvering could figure out Beachum’s next move before he does—but the stylishly shot movie does offer interesting character studies and a satisfying finale.