It's hard to watch Gregory Hoblit's Fracture (2007) and not be reminded of The Silence of the Lambs---at least on the surface, that is. Both could be considered psychological thrillers, though Silence is much closer to a horror film. Both feature Anthony Hopkins as an intelligent, provocative criminal who commands attention with his words and actions. Both feature protagonists seeking justice while attempting to dissect Hopkins' mind---but instead of a young, upstart FBI student, here we get a young, upstart lawyer. The main difference, of course, is this: Silence takes its time as the horrific events unfold, always ready with another trick up its sleeve. Fracture, on the other hand, plays all of its cards too early and lumbers along to an unsatisfying conclusion.
Our story revolves around Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson), a successful young prosecutor with only two weeks left at his current job. He's just been offered a high-profile position at a corporate law firm, so it's no surprise that his focus is starting to drift. Luckily, his most recent case appears to be a no-brainer: wealthy engineer Ted Crawford (Hopkins) has just been convicted of shooting his wife, who lays comatose in a hospital while the legal proceedings unfold. The film's earliest sequences hint at what drove Crawford to commit the crime, but one thing's for sure: we saw him do it. Unfortunately, the evidence against him doesn't quite add up, turning this seemingly open-and-shut case into a movement for acquittal.
First, the good news: Hopkins and Gosling turn in strong performances here, carrying most of the film's weight as the story unfolds. Their interactions are often stirring, even when Hopkins veers into familiar territory. Unfortunately, a number of supporting characters only exist to slow down the proceedings, from Willy's new boss and quasi-love interest (Rosamund Pike) to the heavy-handed treatment of Crawford's comatose wife. Both offer rather short-sighted glimpses of character development for the young prosecutor, even though they're rarely needed in what should've been a more streamlined thriller. Additionally, the plot ends up being painfully linear: all the pieces seem to literally fall into place, leaving little room for suspense or even dramatic tension.
Most viewers will find Fracture harmless enough upon its first viewing. The legal proceedings are certainly far-fetched but occasionally gripping, as Crawford's profession of innocence actually makes us question the film's opening moments. Fortunately (and in a sense, unfortunately), there are few twists and turns along the way. Audiences have become so accustomed to being tricked during a thriller's final moments, the thought of a relatively neat ending almost seems like a cheat in itself. This certainly doesn't mean that Fracture can't pull the wool over our eyes during a few key sequences, but the film's third act often seems painfully forced in its simplicity. Combined with the superfluous side-stories mentioned earlier, there's more crammed in here than there really ought to be. It can be enjoyed on a basic level for the solid lead performances, but there's surprisingly little about Fracture that leaves a lasting impression.
Presented on DVD by New Line, Fracture arrives in a relatively slim package that reflects its underwhelming performance at the box office. To be fair, what's on board here has at least been presented with care: the technical presentation is strong, while the limited bonus features look and sound equally good. Though die-hard fans of the film may want to pick this up on release day, new viewers should certainly proceed with caution. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays, it's no surprise that Fracture looks excellent on DVD. The slightly stylized color palette appears cool and natural, boasting strong black levels and no apparent digital defects. Fracture may not be a perfect film, but you'll have a tough time complaining about the visual treatment.
Audio is presented in your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 Surround formats; dialogue sounds clean and clear throughout, while music and sound effects rarely fight for attention. You shouldn't expect much from the rear channels, but what's here should satisfy fans of the film. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included during the main feature and most of the bonus material.
Closing things out is the original Theatrical Trailer (2:21) and a few Sneak Peeks for upcoming New Line projects. All bonus features have been presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (yes, even the deleted scenes!) and only the trailer doesn't include optional English and Spanish subtitles. Here's hoping more studios treat the bonus features with such care.
It may dress itself up as a tightly-wound psychological thriller, but Fracture barely manages to keep up with the strong performances of Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. The slow-burning story is weighed down by a few unnecessary plot elements and supporting characters; this proves to be especially frustrating, since the film starts out quite strongly. Overall, Fracture is a harmless enough diversion but probably won't hold up to many repeat viewings. New Line's DVD package is slim but serviceable, offering a strong technical presentation and a few bonus features. While there's certainly not enough here to recommend this as a solid blind buy, fans of Hopkins and Gosling shouldn't object to giving Fracture a spin over the weekend. Rent It.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.