© 2007 Ray Wong
More of a psychological drama than a legal thriller, Fracture goes for the brain instead of the heart to deliver a story that is intricate as a woven sweater.
Assistant DA Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is on the move. He's just landed a coveted position at one of L.A.'s biggest law firms, after achieving an impressive 97% conviction rate. His boss, Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn), think he's wasting his talent in corporate law. But Beachum has more on his mind than his career -- he's engaging in a love affair with Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike), a partner at the firm.
Before Beachum wraps up his duties at the DA office, a murder case lands on his lap. It seems like an open-and-shut case: the accused, Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), allegedly killed his younger wife (Embeth Davidtz), locked himself in his posh house, and later signed a confession. Thinking he will end his days at the office with an easy victory, cocky Beachum takes the case without much preparation. His arrogance costs him dearly. Due to technicalities, the judge throws out the signed confession. And one more problem presents itself: there is no murder weapon. They search the house multiple times and cannot find the gun that shot Crawford's wife.
As the case continues, Beachum finds more and more problems with the case. He's also under extreme pressure both from the DA office and the law firm, and his career is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, he knows Crawford is guilty but he simply can't find any evidence. Crawford has, in fact, carried out a perfect murder. Should Beachum give up, or should he pursue Crawford at the risk of ruining his own future?
Anthony Hopkins (All the King's Men) is rather typecast here in a Hannibal Lecter-like role: calm, cold, smart, and calculated. Don't get me wrong -- Hopkins is fetching in the role, playing to his strength with his steely stares and crooked smile. He can probably play that part in his sleep. Gosling (Half Nelson), coming off his Oscar-nominated performance, is somewhat bland as the hero. He has enough intensity and good looks to rival Tom Cruise in The Firm; unfortunately, his character is a bit passive, and he pales next to Sir Hopkins.
As Beachum's boss, David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) doesn't have much to do but act as a wise mentor to Gosling arrogant upstart. His performance is solid, however. Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice) is excellent as Beachum's corporate boss and girlfriend, deftly playing up the ambition as well as vulnerability the character requires. Billy Burke (Ladder 49) does a good job as tortured Detective Rob Nunally, who happens to have engaged in an affair with Crawford's wife, played vulnerably by Embeth Davidtz (Junebug).
The script, written by Daniel Pyne (The Manchurian Candidate) and Glenn Gers (The Accountant), is as calculated as Ted Crawford himself, just not as smart. The story opens with a full reveal of the murder. While it's an intriguing opening, it gives away far too much, taking away some of the suspense. Any sharp viewers would have guessed how Crawford did it to, literally, get away with murder. And it becomes frustrating to watch Willy Beachum and everyone else around him stumble and fall.
However, the cat-and-mouse game is made more interesting by introducing Beachum's character arc. In comparison, there's no arc to Crawford, so that character remains a rather two-dimensional villain. As with many thrillers, there are plot holes, some of which minor and some glaring. A late development involving Detective Nunally stretches credibility. The perfect murder is also perfect by the writers' design. I mean, there's no way Crawford could have planned everything exactly how he wanted it. So in that sense, the script seems manipulative.
Director Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War) does a good job in putting the film together. Despite the flaws in the writing, the film is very good technically, hitting all the right notes as far as a legal thriller is concerned. Los Angeles is a beautiful backdrop, and Hoblit seems to have an eye for architecture. And like architecture, the film has a meticulous look and feel to it. The problem is, somewhere along those lines, a little bit of heart and soul is lost. We really don't care that much about any of these characters -- there's simply not a lot of depth for us to root for. So, while the film is an interestingly plotted story for the mind, it's not fractured enough to really fascinates us and hold on to our hearts.
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, Billy Burke, Cliff Curtis
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Writers: Daniel Pyne, Glenn Gers,
Distributor: New Line
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent content
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.8 out of 10