April 26, 2007

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Fracture (R)
Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling battle each other for Best Close-up of Eyes, Best Malevolent Smile and Best Inscrutable Look (Hopkins wins the first two by a hair but Gosling grabs the third) in Fracture, a tale of investigatory shenanigans, courtroom drama and a struggle of wills.

Itís also about good actors slumming it with decent but not great material but nonetheless having fun with the psychological games and double-entendre dialogue. Both Hopkins and Gosling can do and have done weightier stuff than this but Fracture is their ice cream cone reward for being so talented.

Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is all aglow with love; too bad itís for police detective Rob (Billy Burke) and not for her much older husband Ted (Hopkins). Ted knows that his wife isnít true blue and he follows her to the hotel where she meets her boyfriend. When she comes home that night, he confronts her about her infidelity but doesnít give her a lot of time for excuses before he shoots her in the head. Then we see him clean up a bit and the police arrive. Surprise, itís Detective Rob. Surprise, Detective Rob didnít know Jenniferís real last name or where she lived so only once heís inside does realize that his girlfriend is the victim.

Detective Rob is mighty angry about the shooting of his girlfriend and perhaps itís that mighty anger that clouds his judgment enough to have him first attack a surrendering Ted and then hover around during Tedís confession, which even an only occasional watcher of Law & Order could tell you will result in problems later on. Thatís OK, though; surely the prosecutor will work on any holes in the chain of evidence before the case goes to trial.

And normally, the high-rate-of-prosecutions-having assistant district attorney Willie (Gosling) would thoroughly investigate the case before taking it into a courtroom. But the case looks easy and ADA Willie is all excited about the prospect of heading to his new job as a lawyer in bank-account-enlarging private practice. Only Willieís initial discussions with Ted ó who, despite being crazy rich, wants to represent himself and asks to keep Willie as a prosecutor because he likes him ó hint at the larger problems lying ahead for Willie.

As we suspect, we soon learn that there are plenty of holes in Detective Robís case against Ted, starting with Detective Rob, whose status as Jenniferís lover makes inadmissible Tedís confession to the shooting. Plus, the gun that fired the bullet that hit Jennifer isnít the gun police took off Ted.

Now ADA Willie has no case and probably no fancy job, as Tedís likely acquittal threatens to mar Willieís excellent convention rate.

There are a couple of nifty little twists in Fracture and we get some of the same law-nerd moments that lead to the more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat-type convictions so regularly portrayed on Law & Order. In a lot of ways, Fracture could be compared to an episode of Law & Order, one with more back story on the cops and lawyers. What makes Fracture worth paying for (Law & Order is available for free to cable subscribers just about every waking moment of the day) are the fun performances of Hopkins and Gosling, two classical musicians getting together for a little jam session. There are no ďserious dramaĒ pretensions about Fracture; the actors are free to be loose and a little broad. Hopkins isnít Hannibal Lecter but that twinkle in the eye is just the same. Meanwhile, Gosling, who did some cheesy suspense early in his career, is freed from Half Nelson seriousness and gets to make use of a very charming cat-that-swallowed-the-canary grin.

Fans of police procedurals will get plenty of suped up little details to the regular Law & Order format while fans of decent movies sprinkled with a bit of cheese will enjoy watching two good actors snack lustily on the scenery. B-

Rated R for language and some violent content. Directed by Gregory Hoblit and written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers, Fracture is an hour and 52 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by New Line Cinema.