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April 17, 2007 > Fracture A movie review

Fracture A movie review

By Steve Warga

The title is somewhat lame (pun intended); the opening drowses a bit; but stick with it, this is a pretty decent piece of entertainment. In a throwback to the days of Alfred Hitchcock and other suspense masters, screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers have crafted a drama that relies on clever plotting and solid acting, rather than outrageous stunts and gross-out special effects.

Anthony Hopkins, at his sinister best, plays the part of Ted Crawford, a highly successful engineer who is a master at piecing together scraps of aircraft parts collected from accident scenes and then identifying the mechanical culprit. He possesses a lifelong knack for detecting minute fractures, even without computer-enhanced x-ray equipment; thus the film's weak title.

Crawford conspires to shoot his philandering wife, stage the crime scene, await arrest, then win at trial on technicalities; literally getting away with murder. A relatively unknown actor and Canada native, Ryan Gosling, portrays the wunderkind young prosecutor, Willy Beachum, who becomes utterly absorbed with foiling Crawford's callous taunting of all the prosecutor believes to be right and just in the law. In his pursuit of justice for Crawford's wife, Beachum even throws away a hugely lucrative new job awaiting him at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm.

It's a tightly woven narrative, easily followed, yet teasingly deceitful with those viewers compelled to figure out "whodunit." In this movie, however, the question is how did he "dunit?" You won't know for sure until the very end, and that makes for a fine suspense-thriller. This may not seem entirely fair to some, especially those who encounter frustration with mystery writers who conveniently withhold the one scrap of crucial evidence that solves the crime. The clue is here, in Fracture, but not conclusively until the satisfying ending. There's even a neat little epilogue scene that adds to your sense of completion of an entertaining tale.

As noted, Hopkins is his usual-superb-in portraying the scheming, evil, cuckold Crawford. His lovely and much younger wife, Jennifer (played by Embeth Davidtz), is in the habit of enjoying the sensual charms of LA Police Lieutenant Rob Nunally while hubby's away or totally absorbed in his work. However, Crawford catches them, unaware, then plans and executes his wife's murder at precisely the right moment. Lt. Nunally is the responding hostage negotiator, tasked with talking Crawford into laying down his weapon and walking out of his palatial hillside mansion where he's already shot his wife. Until he sees the body, Nunally doesn't know his secret lover is the victim because she never revealed her last name.

This twist of timing challenges viewers' credulity a tiny bit, and there are other similar moments throughout the film. Don't be deterred, however, it's all planned to make this plot work, and it succeeds.

Hopkins is the only well-known actor in the cast. All the rest, including Gosling (who splits the lion's share of screen time with Hopkins), are actors who evoke memory searches of, "Where have I seen him (her) before?" This is not to suggest the acting is amateurish. It's actually very consistent and steady from beginning to end, driving the film's success without resorting to excess violence or nudity.

Like the actors, Director Gregory Hoblit brings to Fracture a long list of minor credits as both director and producer. Most of his prior work was in television, including numerous credits in crime drama shows such as Hillstreet Blues and LA Law. It appears the big screen suits him just as well. Except for his trendy and annoying use of dark lens filters, Hoblit displays a fine talent for setting and shooting a feature-length movie.

Somewhere along the line, this production team fell a little too in love with portentous sound-tracking. One scene in particular could have done without the repeated "DUM ... DUM ... DUM" of a heavily struck bass drum. Come on guys, you wrote a fine script, skip the goofy background music!

Overall, though, Fracture is a solid (yes, another pun intended) hit. As noted, it's rated R, but PG-13 seems more appropriate. No nudity, only brief violence scenes, and minimal foul language; seems maybe the producers pushed for an R rating to attract young viewers. Who knows, your teenagers might learn to appreciate movie fare that challenges more than their fear factor? This film would be a fine start.

Directed by Gregory Hoblit
Rated R

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