Saturday, July 19, 2008

fracture: homicidal modern

Lt. Robert Nunally: Your wife? Is she OK?
Ted Crawford: I don't think she is. I shot her.

Although packaged as a mystery thriller with twists awaiting the viewer in the final feet, Fracture is clearly a chamber piece for two set against a larger cinematic canvas. Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a wealthy structural engineer who kills his adulterous wife and then gets himself exonerated by employing a convoluted scheme. His adversary is Willy Beachum, played by Ryan Gosling fresh from the praise for his performance in Half Nelson. Crawford's profession provides the source for the film's title and dominant idea (everything and everyone has a weak spot). Working like the Rube Goldberg machine seen in the opening credits, Crawford's scheme exploits Willy's over-confident disregard for the case. Hopkins has the charisma to steal the show in scenes set up for the actors to bandy chops; despite this, Gosling holds his own rather well by delivering an unforced interpretation of the ambitious Willy Beachum, who tries to come to terms with being taken for a ride. There is a lot of welcome detail in the film's texture that often assists exposition (the sign in the meeting room noting that there's no time limit for attorney meetings, the various artifacts in the courtroom). The background score by Mychael and Jeff Danna is dramatic and brooding; despite the synthesised elements, it echoes the tropes of film noir (there's even a rather Herrmann-esque motif at an early moment in the film), offering a complement of tension to the on-screen proceedings. The narrative and the performances make for a reasonably engaging viewing experience, although things might seem a bit too relaxed (or boring, as the case may be) for people who're used to their thrillers served up with more action and edited by Edward Scissorhands. And yes, everyone in this universe seems to use a Mac.

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