29 April 2007 | Buddy-51
shrewdly executed courtroom thriller
Blessed with a smart script, stylish direction and first-rate performances by Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, "Fracture" emerges as more than just the "Silence of the Lambs" knock-off it would appear to be on the surface.
In a role reminiscent of a somewhat toned-down (i.e. non-cannabilistic) Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a wealthy L.A. businessman who shoots his wife when he discovers she's having an affair with a hostage negotiator. Crawford readily admits to the crime, giving the police a signed confession and insisting on defending himself in court. Gosling is Willy Beachum, a cocky, up-and-coming public prosecutor who takes the case believing it will be one last slam-dunk victory for him before he moves on to bigger and better things at a prestigious private law firm downtown. Beachum gets more than he bargained for, however, when the creepy and unnerving Crawford begins to play the legal system for all it's worth, tweaking the hotshot lawyer by outthinking him and continually knocking him off his game.
In less capable hands, "Fracture" could easily have been a standard-issue, twist-and-turn courtroom drama, but thanks to the talents involved, it transcends the limitations of its genre. Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers have written a screenplay filled with witty, crackling dialogue and sharply observed insights into the psyches of its two principal characters. Hopkins and Gosling play the cat-and-mouse game with conviction and gusto, while director Gregory Hoblit and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau use a smoothly gliding camera and a barely perceptible visual distortion at the edges of the picture to highlight the "fractured" nature of the piece. Moreover, the film has a nice L.A. feel to it, as it takes us to various interesting sites around town, including the ultra-modern, near-surrealistic Disney Concert Hall located in the heart of the city.
There is strong supporting work by David Straitharn ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), Billy Burke, Rosamund Pike and Fiona Shaw ("Mountains of the Moon"), among others, but it is Hopkins and Gosling, locked in a life-or-death battle of acumen and wits, who make "Fracture" a perpetually compelling and watchable courtroom thriller.