- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

Director Gregory Hoblit’s “Fracture” might be best described in his own words: The courtroom drama belongs to a genre he calls “brainy popcorn thrillers.”

The film isn’t rocket science (thus, the popcorn). However, the filmmakers did put some real thought into its snaking path and manage to draw entertaining-enough performances from its heavyweight stars.

In the familiar villain position, we find Anthony Hopkins, an Oscar-winning actor who has the unique ability to give people the willies with the mere twitch of his jaw or eyebrow. He’s not permitted to reach the level of intensity he exhibited in the nightmarish “Silence of the Lambs,” yet this role does show him flexing his creepy muscles and delivering some well-written monologues and punchy one-liners as Ted Crawford, a calculating businessman who shoots his wife. She was cheating on him with Detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), so Ted thought she deserved it.

Ted confesses to the crime — although, like the complex Rube Goldberg-esque machines that fill his work and home spaces (they resemble miniature roller coasters for tiny glass spheres), he knows exactly how to channel the outcome in the direction he desires.

He finds a useful pawn in his prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling, looking particularly boyish), a pompous yet effective litigator who’s more than a little distracted by the new job he’s just landed at a cushy corporate law firm. Willy just has to nail this last case, then he’s on to bigger and higher-paying things — something Ted exploits to the utmost.

The defendant isn’t the only one who’s got an interest in Willy. His white-hot new boss, Nikki Gardner (an interesting divergence for Britisher Rosamund Pike), finds enough appeal in his wild gestures and bloated ego to not only engage in “relations” with him, but invite him (quite implausibly) for Thanksgiving dinner with the folks.

As Willy loses ground in the case, both Nikki and the D.A. (David Strathairn in an awfully straightforward role) urge him to bail out. Soon, it becomes a matter of Willy’s pride, though, and he can’t back down.

Neither protagonist is altogether worthy of winning at trial from the audience’s perspective, so “the jury” may be split at the eventual outcome.

Still, the cat-and-mouse game is intriguingly played, particularly since Mr. Gosling seems to revel in his lighter, more hotheaded character portrayal.

So long as audiences “remember the popcorn” and recognize the fact that this isn’t a weighty “Half Nelson” or “Remains of the Day,” they may find themselves pleasantly amused.

**1/2

TITLE: “Fracture”

RATING: R (for violent scenes, sexuality and language)

CREDITS: Directed by Gregory Hoblit. Written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

WEB SITE: www.fracturemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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