Can a movie where Anthony Hopkins plays a clever murderer go wrong? The answer is no, no it can’t - thank goodness! Though he trades “Clarice” for “Willy Boy,” and cannibalism for a more calculated sort of murder, Hopkins evokes his Silence of the Lambs heyday in what is definitely one of the best thrillers of 2007.
You’d think after countless movies where jealous husbands kill their wives women might take a few extra steps to ensure that their spouses aren’t complete psychos before embarking on scandalous affairs. And if you’re married to Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a super-intellectual obsessed with building strange marble structures, you probably should have seen the warning signs. Still Jennifer Crawford (Embeth Davidtz) obliviously continues her dangerous liaison with a man whose true identity she refuses to learn, while Ted patiently waits for the perfect moment to strike.
When Jennifer returns home after a hard day’s cheating, Ted innocently requests a hug before shooting her in the face. When the police arrive, Ted only permits hostage negotiator Rob Nunally (Billy Burke) into the house, knowing full well that Rob is the man his wife has been cavorting with. Ted confesses his crime as Rob frantically searches for signs of life from his lover and then desperately attacks her shooter. Doctors manage to stabilize Jennifer in a coma while Ted is sent to court where, he elects to represent himself. Hot shot Assistant District Attorney Will Beachum (Ryan Gosling), agrees to take on the open and shut case to add one more to win to his seamless record before beginning a new lucrative position in corporate law. With Willy distracted by his overblown confidence and his sexy new boss Nikki (Rosamund Pike), Ted begins to manipulate the system so that Willy’s slam-dunk case quickly turns into an air ball.
Thanks to the endless slew of recent disappointing thrillers, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Fracture to well, fracture. During a rather haunting interrogation scene, Ted tells Willy “Look closely enough and you’ll find everything has a weak spot…” I found Fracture’s in the unnecessary romance between Nikki and Willy. Not that anyone would mind a job where you get to screw your sexy boss before you even unpack your stapler, but an invite to Thanksgiving dinner is where I draw the line. Director Gregory Hoblit could have at least left us the steamy sex scene for good measure, but half of a shoulder doesn’t justify the untimely affair. However, unlike what happens with Willy’s case against Ted, one little crack doesn’t lead to a break. As the film progressed, I continued to anticipate melodrama, cliché, and unintentional comedy, but when the credits rolled, I realized that Fracture is actually a GREAT movie.
It’s a testament to just how bad the film industry can be that anyone would even doubt a movie pitting Anthony Hopkins against Ryan Gosling …but then again, Harrison Ford versus Paul Bettany led to the disaster known as Firewall. Fortunately, Hoblit lays fresh and compelling visuals over a script rife with witty banter, creating a film that entertains while it intrigues. As expected, the title actors give incredible performances, with Gosling shining as a haughty go-getter who has to be put in his place before he can put Ted in his. The real standout though is the plot itself, which doesn’t try to reinvent the genre with some ridiculously shocking ending (ahem, M. Night Shyamalan) but instead oozes cleverness, while allowing its actors to subtly carry the triumphant conclusion.
Even if you manage to guess its surprising ending, the movie will shock you with how well it’s put together, from the seamless acting to constricting camera angles. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers, or if you are just eager to hear Anthony Hopkins call someone “Old Sport” in his chillingly playful voice, you surely won’t be disappointed by Fracture.