In this movie, Anthony Hopkins does not rehash his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs, but you could be forgiven for thinking that he does based on the marketing campaign for this entertaining if illogical courtroom thriller.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie features some smartly written scenes and some genuinely clever plot twists, but the success of the villain’s scheme depends on some truly mind boggling coincidences. Vegas hookers have been forced to swallow far less during your average spring break.
Fracture is not a whodunit. In the opening scenes, we watch as wealthy aeronautics tycoon Ted Crawford (Hopkins) shoots his wife (Embeth Davidtz). It isn’t even about why he done it. She was having an affair. This is about how this unusually clever man seems to outwit an absolutely slam-dunk case against him.
The case is assigned Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a hotshot prosecutor with one foot out the door, headed for a private practice job with a prestigious firm. He thinks his last case as a public servant is open and shut. The defendant was the only person in the house with the body. Willy has a confession and the murder weapon.
Pretty soon, however, the snags start piling up. First, the defendant’s gun doesn’t match the murder weapon and was never fired, even though it was the only one in the house and Crawford never had the chance to dispose of it. Worst of all, the detective who took his confession (Billy Burke) happens to be the guy with whom Mrs. Crawford was getting horizontal. His head already in a cushy corner office, Willy gets completely blindsided and the case (as well as Willy’s future and present employment) are in serious jeopardy.
Hopkins gives a first-class performance as a truly intelligent man expertly manipulating those all around him. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t really provide much in the way of depth for his character. We never get a clear picture why Crawford sees murder as the best solution for a cheating wife, although the film suggests that, as a master manipulator, the mere fact that he thought he could get away with it was reason enough.
Set against one of the best actors of recent generations, Ryan Gosling manages to hold his own as a man of massively misplaced confidence about to be severely humbled. Again, his character is a little thinly written and, after the case has crumbled and Willy begs his boss (David Strathairn) for another crack at Crawford, we really don’t see a good reason for the district attorney to grant his request. Also, Willy’s affair with his shapely blonde mentor at the uptown law firm (Rosamund Pike) seems poorly motivated and serves mostly to consume screen time and provide some artificial conflict. Friction between Willy and the remaining detective on the case (Cliff Curtis) also seems forced.
Finally, I don’t want to give anything away and I’m certainly no legal scholar, but I really don’t think that the movie’s interpretation of “double jeopardy” would pass constitutional muster. Actual working lawyers who have seen this move may prove me wrong. If I am, please leave a comment and tell me I’m an idiot.
Even if I’m way off base, Fracture is still one of those fairly entertaining movies that work best when the viewer expends as little brainpower as possible while watching it.