***1/2 out of *****
“Fracture” is a film about a man who commits a terrible crime and then meticulously arranges things so that he can’t get fingered for that crime.
On a deeper level, however, “Fracture” is about people whose facades of seeming perfection are actually marred by some blemish beneath the surface – or at least, that’s what the film wants to be about on a deeper level.
“Fracture” is interesting because it never quite achieves its aspirations of being both an ingenious thriller and an intelligent character study, but the fact that the film even tries to balance these two ambitions is admirable in itself.
“Fracture” also features two wonderful performances by Ryan Gosling and Sir Anthony Hopkins that are enough on their own to recommend the film to thriller junkies or just those looking for some solid acting.
The film begins with Ted Crawford (Hopkins) observing his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davitz) as she conducts an affair with a detective named Rob Nunally (Billy Burke). Upon returning home Crawford confronts his wife – though he does so not in the typical, “How could you do this to me?” way, but with a subtle and seething charm – before promptly putting a bullet in her head. That his wife actually survives and enters a coma is noteworthy and becomes important later on.
Prosecuting Crawford is Willy Beachum (Gosling), a young and highly successful lawyer who exudes cocky charm.
Beachum thinks the Crawford case will be a cinch, allowing him to close out business at his old law firm and then move on to bigger and better things.
But proving Crawford shot his wife turns out to be more difficult than Beachum anticipated, and the rest of the movie is devoted to his attempts to prove something that seems so obvious.
As Beachum, Gosling lives up to the hype that has declared him one of the best actors of his generation. One of the most intriguing things about Beachum’s character is how he reacts to nearly every situation with the same resolute confidence; he is a man who always has appear as though he knows exactly how events are going to unfold. Gosling’s performance is less showy compared to Hopkins’ but it is no less compelling.
And then there’s Hopkins, who has entirely too much fun playing the unctuous and charismatic Crawford. His best scenes, though, are when he’s playing against Gosling’s Beachum, as these two highly intelligent men (and highly skilled actors) try to outdo one another.
The film’s pace lags in the middle, and the conclusion, while clever, does not compel repeat viewings.
What we’re left with is a film that borrows liberally from various thriller subgenres – whodunit, courtroom drama, cat-and-mouse – but which is ultimately memorable for a pair of consummate performances.
Movie reviewer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.