Viewing Fracture is a little bit like going down to Spring Training--it's fun to watch your favorite players getting into shape, but no one's mistaking those scrimmages for big games. Fracture squares off one our most esteemed actors (Anthony Hopkins) against one of our most exciting young talents (Ryan Gosling), and while no one's going to get too worked up over the result, it sure is fun to watch these guys work.
The film is directed, in the style of a slick mid-90s Michael Douglas thriller (down to its generic title), by Gregory Hoblit, who helmed the terrific Primal Fear over a decade ago and not much of note since. Like that film, Fracture is promoted as a courtroom thriller, but it is more of a character study; they also throw in some hospital maneuvering for good measure.
Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a rich engineer who shoots his cheating wife in the opening sequence, coldly and efficiently. The shooting seems straightforward enough, but he then meticulously rearranges the scene, burns his clothes, washes himself up, and stages a hostage situation so that his wife's cop lover can discover her barely-alive body. He's taken into custody and charged with attempted murder. Meanwhile, Willy Beachum (Gosling) is a talented young D.A. on his way into the private sector; he starts a cushy, high-paying job in a couple of weeks, but he gets pulled in on Crawford's arraignment, presumed to be open-and-shut thanks to his verbal and signed confession. But Crawford has got some tricks up his sleeve.
This reviewer was mostly concerned that this was going to be another of Hopkins' sleepwalking-through-a-proto-Lecter turns (Instinct, anyone?), but he's really on his game here, flawlessly portraying a ruthless millionaire as the perpetual cool customer. Watching his studied, precise, stripped-down performance, and comparing it with the loose, free-wheeling, seemingly off-the-cuff work by Gosling (who's constantly having fun with food props and his down-home accent) is like taking a master class in acting--two approaches, both entirely effective. As soon as they put these two in a room together, the movie really starts--their initial shared scene (Hopkins' arraignment) is sharp, witty, sly, and perfectly played. (The sprung humor of the sequence promises something fresh--a kind of legal screwball comedy--that the rest of the movie doesn't bother to deliver.)
These two leads truly bring out the best in each other--it's almost like you can see the actors sensing a worthy partner (as their characters do), and stepping up their game accordingly. Indeed, the scenes they share with each other are notably stronger than those with the rest of the fairly weak supporting cast (David Straithairn notwithstanding, of course).
Billy Burke is dull as toast in the key male supporting role, and poor Rosamund Pike (as Gosling's new boss and love interest) can't do a damned thing with her poorly written character and its entirely unnecessary romantic entanglements. The talented Cliff Curtis does his best with his bland role, but Bob Gunton (the warden in Shawshank) shares a memorable moment with Gosling and Zoe Kazan (yep, Elia's granddaughter) is so memorable in her brief role as Gosling's assistant that I went looking for her name in the credits when I first saw the picture; she's since popped up in In The Valley of Elah and Revolutionary Road.
The music, by Jeff and Mychael Danna, is pretty awful; it wails and screeches and pounds and is too melodramatic by a half. Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers' screenplay has some fairly clever turns, though it gets pretty ridiculous by the time it reaches its hospital elevator climax. That being said, it certainly doesn't go anywhere predictable in its third act.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Fracture makes its high-def debut on a 25GB Blu-ray disc, and its 2.35:1 image is well-represented by the 1080p VC-1 transfer. The sleek look of Kramer Morgenthau's excellent cinematography (particularly the icy blue tint of the opening sequence and the warm amber glow of the Los Angeles exteriors) is beautifully reproduced, while the detail work is impressive and black levels are deep and solid. Backgrounds are occasionally crushed, there's some awkward light bleeding in one of Curtis' scenes, and isolated shots (particularly a brief scene between Gosling and Burke in a parking garage) are a little washed out, but it's a sturdy and handsome transfer overall.
The TrueHD 5.1 presentation is good, if a little on the quiet side--I had to crank my system up pretty loud to make out the dialogue (particularly Hopkins' controlled whispers and mumbles) clearly. Once that adjustment is made, though, it's a good, immersive mix; heavy towards the center dialogue channel, sure, but with enough directional effects in all speakers (a gunshot hear, a chopper there, some courtroom chatter, etc.) to keep the track hopping.
A regular English 5.1 track is also available, as are 2.0 tracks in German, Russian, and Polish. Subtitles are offered in English SDH, Spanish, German, Polish, Russian, and Ukranian.
New Line's new Blu-ray has retained all of the bonus features from its 2007 standard-def DVD, though they're on the meager side. We get a selection of Deleted and Alternate Scenes (11:12 total); most of them are additions to the love story, so none are missed terribly in the final cut. We do get two marginally different versions of their sex scene; you get the unfortunate feeling that there was a lot of debate over what position they thought audiences wanted to see the pair in first. We also get two Alternate Endings (22:47 total), though they're really just minor re-cuttings of the final version and not the kind of radical alterations we're used to seeing with that label. The assembly-line Theatrical Trailer (2:21) completes the unimpressive bonus package.
Fracture is an entertaining film and worth a look, but make no mistake--without the skill of its tremendously gifted leads, there is just no movie there. So take it for what it is: an enjoyable thriller and, primarily, an actor's showcase.
Jason lives with his wife Rebekah and their daughter Lucy in New York. He holds an MA in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU. He is film editor for Flavorwire and is a contributor to Salon, the Atlantic, and several other publications. His first book, Pulp Fiction: The Complete History of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece, was released last fall by Voyageur Press. He blogs at Fourth Row Center and is yet another critic with a Twitter feed.