It is hardly a reassuring sign when one of the more interesting things in a film is not even sentient. Over the title sequence of Fracture, and in the midst of some of the duller stretches (of these there are many) we see a glittering sort of Rube Goldberg contraption, all shiny metallic tracks and carved wooden wheels, where small glass balls skitter and roll in an elaborately choreographed dance. It's a beautiful piece of elegant machinery and, one hopes, symbolic of the many complex and artfully managed plot twists to come. Instead, what we're given is Anthony Hopkins
and Ryan Gosling
sleepwalking around each other as they navigate through one of the year's laziest films.
Fracture has no excuse to be so lazy, given the actors at its disposal and a setup that should have made this an easy slam-dunk. Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, an aeronautics engineer who's found out that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz
) is having an affair with police detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke
). Confronting her at home, Crawford shoots her in the head and calmly waits for the cops to arrive. When they do, it's with none other than Nunally at the lead, who's shocked and enraged at finding Jennifer in a pool of blood and Crawford standing there as though nothing had happened. After a quickly-interrupted beating from Nunally, Crawford later confesses and even waives his right to a lawyer. When it's all dropped in the lap of assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Gosling), the case couldn't seem more airtight, which is good since Beachum can't wait to slip the bonds of lowly civil employment for a well-paying private sector job. Article continues below
Things get more complicated, as they do, but hardly more interesting, which is truly a surprise. It's no shock that Crawford has several aces up his sleeve, being a scientist who specializes in things like spotting stress fractures (not to mention the guy who built that contraption shown in the beginning) and believes himself to have committed the perfect crime. And when some of his revelations are brought down on an arrogant and slipshod Beachum in the courtroom they do have an impact, as the film shifts into Beachum's panicked race to win a case he barely thought he needed to be conscious for, and at the same time not jeopardize his new law firm position.
But for some reason, it's at that point that Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers' script begins to simply peter out, eventually resulting in one of film history's least satisfying "surprise" endings. Crawford recedes from the picture -- which is probably for the best, as Hopkins is playing it all as a winking lark; fun in bits but tiresome over the long haul -- and Gosling is given little to do in order to pad out a nearly two-hour script that could have easily been compressed into a single episode of Law and Order. It doesn't help that Gosling (a fantastic prospect who was already showing signs of laziness in his too-easy performance in Half Nelson
) seems barely sentient here, a flicker of wit only occasionally visible through his generally sleepy demeanor.
Blame is also due to director Gregory Hoblit
, a TV veteran (Hill Street Blues) who's also shot a number of hit-or-miss pulp films like Primal Fear, Frequency, and Fallen, none of which had the most logical of stories but made up for them with sterling casts at their best and a general sense of winking fun. In Fracture, though, even with two of the better actors in film today going head to head and a prime setup that wouldn't have been unfamiliar in the glossy legal thrillers of the '80s or '90s -- there's a ghost of Joe Eszterhas in all these devilish machinations -- Hoblit can hardly sustain even a modicum of tension.
If one was making a case for how TV drama has eclipsed film in recent years, unnecessary product like Fracture would be Exhibit A.