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You’ve gotta love Anthony Hopkins. Pushing 70, he’s still able to put all the up-and-coming pretenders to the freak-throne of Hannibal Lecter to shame. Even though there’s no census-taker eating (with fava beans or otherwise) in Hopkins’ new film “Fracture,” the aging master still manages to let his creep flag fly.
Here, Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a self-absorbed, self-made multi-millionaire. The founder and CEO of a California aeronautics company, Crawford’s hobbies are building intricate and artful marble contraptions, and plotting the murder of his wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz). It seems that in Crawford’s frequent absence on business, Jennifer has started a no-strings-attached affair with another man.
After some preliminary sniffing around that won’t make any sense until later, Crawford comes home and shoots his wife in the head. After that, he burns his clothes, washes his hands, and patiently waits for the cops, gun in hand. When police arrive, Crawford makes a full confession to the crime — one that he later backs up with a signed confession at the station house. Meanwhile, his stricken wife lies comatose.
With Crawford locked up, enter Los Angeles Assistant D.A. Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling, fresh from his star-making turn in “Half Nelson”). A hardscrabble Okie who clawed and finagled his way to the coveted title of the most winning assistant D.A. in the of the L.A. district attorney’s office, Beachum oozes oil and arrogance. That pays off when he is offered his dream job: a million-dollar-a-year position with an equally oily, high-powered corporate law firm. Before he can trade in his D.A. position for a spot with the beautiful people, however, Beachum is assigned one last, in-the-bag case: landing an attempted-murder conviction against Ted Crawford.
While I won’t spoil the twists and turns that follow, it soon becomes apparent to all involved that Crawford’s case isn’t nearly as cut and dried as it seems. With his new job suddenly hanging on the outcome of the case, Beachum has to match wits with the diabolical Crawford, who is clearly thinking 10 steps ahead of the game.
The ending of “Fracture” would probably make a real-life D.A. belly-laugh until tears came to his or her eyes (the trial occurs right after the murder), and the plot is full of hidden holes — those “way homers” that you probably won’t recognize as such until you’re on your way home from the theater. While you’re watching it, however, fully invested in the characters and too distracted to start thinking about the little things, it’s a tense and interesting thriller.
It is a credit to Gosling’s and Hopkins’ skill that you really don’t have time to think about the plot holes. Hopkins isn’t great here in the role of a “geezer fatale,” but his back and forth with Gosling (especially before Beachum realizes what he’s up against) just might be. Backed by a solid cast (including “Good Night, and Good Luck” Oscar-nominee David Strathairn as Beachum’s D.A. boss), they make for great on-screen adversaries, with some of their scenes almost contentious enough to throw blue sparks.
“Fracture” turns out to be a lot better than most courtroom drama movie of recent years. As long as you can suspend your disbelief for a few hours (this means you, person with a law degree), Hopkins and Gosling will provide a good time.