Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reel To Reel: Fracture

Hello, Clarice... uh, Willy.

How It Rates: ***
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn
Rated: R
Red Flags: Violence, Language

So Hannibal Rising disappointed you. No Anthony Hopkins, no way. Fortunately, he's back -- sort of. Imagine Hannibal sans cannibal and you have Hopkins' character in Fracture, a smooth legal psychodrama. Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a devilishly clever aerospace engineer who can spot hairline cracks (hence the title) as well as commit the perfect crime. He shoots his wife after catching her in an affair, takes a few steps to get rid of the evidence, but then confesses to it when the cops move in.

The case is practically closed for outgoing assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Gosling), a litigator with a 97 percent conviction rate and a cushy high-paying corporate lawyer job waiting for him. He's got a confession, a weapon, and Crawford acting as his own attorney. But before you can say "guilty, guilty, guilty," the case falls apart. The gun used in the shooting has never been shot, and that's just the start of the technicalities that cool off a hot-shot litigator.

Beachum talks with a slurry drawl, leaving no doubt he's the kind of guy who'll go to a mat to put somebody away even though he sounds like a walking DWI case. His forthcoming dream job bewilders him, something he wants but can't quite relate to. Defending white-collar criminals just doesn't carry the same rush as locking them up. With his case in crisis and his new firm expecting a self-starter, Beachum must decide between working as a DA or a fat-cat hired gun. Hopkins, as Crawford, may not eat his victims, but he's still the creepy psychopath we love so much as we watch him call Beachum "old sport" and taunt his inability to get a conviction.

Fracture works not as a who-dunit but a how-dunit as both Crawford and Beachum play the system and try to stay a step ahead of each other.

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