Imagine casting Anthony Hopkins as a genius with a penchant for crime and then having him go up against a somewhat naive younger blond. Sounds like THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, right? Well, in a nutshell, it is also the plot of FRACTURE, a thriller that plays out like a championship chess match.
The screenplay by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gets (from a story by Pyne) has Hopkins cast as structural engineer Ted Crawford. He's wealthy and successful and enjoys the trappings: speeding around in a fancy car, living in a gorgeous home, and being married to the requisite trophy wife (Embeth Davidtz). Crawford is also the kind of guy who prides who can spot design flaws. And he's aware that his wife is having an affair with married hostage negotiator Robert Nunally (Billy Burke). The illicit couple hold their trysts at a hotel, and neither really reveals much about their personal lives -- in fact, they only know one another by their first names.
When Mrs. Crawford arrives home one evening after meeting her lover, her husband shoots her in the face, leaving her in a coma. By refusing to come out when the police arrive, Crawford knows that Nunally will arrive to negotiate with him -- and his nefarious plan is set in motion. He is arrested and confesses to the murder.
Enter Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a hotshot district attorney who has finally landed his dream job in the private sector, working for a corporate law firm. So, with basically one foot out the door, he is called on to prosecute what should be an open and shut case. Crawford decides to defend himself and waives rights in order to obtain a speedy trial. And then the fireworks begin.
Willy literally becomes a servant of two masters -- the District Attorney (David Strathairn in a Gardner (Rosamund Pike), a sexy barracuda with whom Willy begins an ill-advised sexual relationship.
The screenplay contains some humor and a few twists -- although some may have trouble with the final one since it seems too obvious to overlook. (I also have to confess that I thought I had figured out a plot twist that would have been too obvious and am happy to report that the writers opted not to go that route.) Gregory Hoblit directs in a very fluid, straightforward manner. What keeps the audience interest are the performances.
In just a few scenes Davidtz creates a woman who wants more than just to be seen as a pretty possession and who seeks comfort and perhaps more in the arms of a handsome and sexy cop. Burke does a fine job as the conflicted law officer, who toys with going down a very dark path in order to see Crawford punished. Fiona Shaw is suitably stern as the judge presiding over the trial (and almost makes up for her histrionics in THE BLACK DAHLIA). Pike is well cast as the seductive corporate attorney.
But this is really a showcase for Hopkins and Gosling. Of course, Hopkins has famously created the suave and charming serial killer Hannibal Lecter and while there are similarities to that character, the actor chooses to find new notes to play. It may be a variation on a theme, but it is a potent one. While he doesn't have much screen time, Hopkins dominates the film.
He is matched perfectly by Gosling, who creates a complex portrait of an ambitious young man, aspiring to some of the trappings that Crawford almost takes for granted. There's a bit of the rube in Beachum which Gosling allows to seep through in small pieces, but he is also a very intelligent, if arrogant, person. The struggle of wills between these two bright and proud men is at the heart of the film.
FRACTURE is an enjoyable movie aimed at an adult audience. It doesn't condescend nor does it take the viewer for granted. The movie also allows its strong cast, headed by Hopkins and Gosling, to shine.
Rating: B- MPAA Rating: R for language and some violent content Running time:112 mins.
L to R: Ryan Gosling as Willy Beachum and Anthony Hopkins as Ted Crawford in FRACTURE