Thursday, September 20, 2007

Movie Review: "Fracture"

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, Billy Burke, Cliff Curtis, Fiona Shaw, Bob Gunton
Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Official Web site

Highlighted by the pairing of a former Oscar winner (Anthony Hopkins) with an up-and-coming star (Ryan Gosling) who just earned his first Academy Award nomination last year, “Fracture” is watchable, but a bit less than the sum of its parts.

The thriller is at its most interesting when Hopkins and Gosling are pitted against each other, as murder suspect and attorney for the prosecution, respectively. The rest of the time the movie tries to keep the audience interested in the somewhat farfetched courtroom activity as well as the clich├ęs that Gosling’s character has to wade through.

Gosling plays Willy Beachum, a rising young talent in the district attorney’s office who has managed to attain a flawless case record, growing a fairly insufferable ego in the process. District Attorney Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn) knows that Beachum is good, and also knows that he’s looking to advance his career to a higher paying job at a major legal firm.

But before he heads out the DA’s door, he’s given a seemingly cut-and-dried case of a husband shooting his wife, who has fallen into a coma as a result. However, Beachum quickly learns that the case is going to be tougher than he imagined, as the husband, Ted Crawford (Hopkins), chooses to defend himself and proves to be a tricky

Some of the scenes between Hopkins and Gosling bring to mind (likely not too much of an accident) mental showdowns that Hopkins had with Jodie Foster in “Silence of the Lambs,” another film that had the star imprisoned for much of the running time. Gosling proves to be a good match in these scenes, showing the confidence of a young attorney slowly being stripped away by a cunning criminal. By showing Crawford shooting his wife (Embeth Davidtz) early in the film, his character’s guilt is never brought into question. It’s simply left up to Beachum to try and outsmart an adversary who seemingly knows how to make the legal system work in his favor.

While Beachum struggles with his case, he’s also attempting to set up his future with the legal firm, receiving help from a rising attorney (Rosamund Pike). Gosling and Pike have a fairly good chemistry in their scenes together, yet the movie trots out the seemingly obligatory romance that not only feels unnecessary, but also farfetched.

Director Gregory Hoblit keeps the story moving, yet doesn’t bring as much to the table as he did in “Primal Fear,” another courtroom centered thriller that featured a superior story and a breakout performance from Edward Norton.

“Fracture” is best defined as a solid, yet unexceptional genre piece that features two strong lead performances. Some of the characters’ actions play out a bit too conveniently for the plot, but the stars should at least keep you interested until the final credits roll.

Grade: B-
(Rated R for language and some violent content.)

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