**/**** Image B Sound A Extras D+
starring Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike
screenplay by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers
directed by Gregory Hoblit
by Ian Pugh SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Although the term "cat-and-mouse" has already become synonymous with Gregory Hoblit's Fracture, it's something of a misnomer in that it implies a clever battle of wits. The film actually hinges on precisely two turnarounds of one-upsmanship between the designated cat and mouse: the revelation of the convoluted, coincidence-dependent plan to commit the perfect murder, and the fatal flaw in said plan (the "fracture," get it?) that eventually brings its perpetrator to justice--and as both are telegraphed far in advance, it's impossible to play along with the expectation for surprise. So inevitable are these conclusions, in fact, that I just gave up and accepted the ending, which sidesteps a first-glance case of double jeopardy with such vague dialogue, recited in such a bland tone of sotto voce, that I only got the basic gist of how we got from Point A to Point B. With Point B such a shrug-worthy certainty, I wasn't nearly confused enough to care besides.
Sometime after learning that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) has been cheating on him, structural engineer Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins, looking uncannily like Malcolm McDowell) puts a bullet in her head--sending her into a coma--and practically invites the cops to come get him. Once in custody, he even gives a full verbal and written confession. But, oops, it seems the alleged murder weapon was never actually fired, so there goes the evidence; and, oops, it seems the arresting officer and sole interrogator, Rob Nunally (a wasted Billy Burke), was "the other man" in the affair, so there go the confessions. Good thing for Ted that Rob and Jennifer only knew each other by pseudonyms, thereby giving Rob no reason to think there would be a conflict of interest when he arrived at the scene of the crime. And good thing for Ted that the D.A.'s office is being represented by Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling), a fantastic attorney--everyone says he is, so it must be true--who nevertheless couldn't give a shit about the case because he's moving on to a private law firm (and a sexy new co-worker/girlfriend/piece of employment collateral (Rosamund Pike)) in a week. And oops, and oops, and good thing, and good thing.
As Kramer Morgenthau's initially-intimate cinematography is preoccupied with bullet-shattered windows and complex architectural toys, it could be argued that Fracture is a purposely fuzzy tale less concerned with logic or suspense, per se, than with the careful, brittle construction of egos. Not an unreasonable proposition, as Hoblit's own Frequency bent the commonly-held "rules" of time travel to accommodate an emotionally-devastating scenario. Unlike that film, however, Fracture has absolutely nothing original on hand to justify its logical gaps and obvious turns of plot, only offering the familiar checkpoints from other, better legal/crime thrillers. Is there anything left to gain from seeing another hotshot idealist lawyer taken down a couple of pegs and confronted with the ethics of planting evidence? Or from seeing Hopkins, the current poster boy for actor indifference, offer another monotone variation on Hannibal Lecter's superciliousness? At best, Fracture is an inoffensive stopgap film, unworthy of much thought--yet another entry in a genre already crowded with apathetic timewasters destined for cable television.
Wrapped in a worthless cardboard slipcase slathered in pull-quotes from the usual suspects (Peter Hammond, Rex Reed, Peter Travers), New Line Home Entertainment's DVD release of Fracture presents the film in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen* transfer that's impossibly sharp--a trait which, unfortunately, not only flattens out Morgenthau's cinematography but also sacrifices some of the movie's dream-like atmosphere. The Dolby 5.1 audio is fantastic, however, responding incredibly well to the noisy crowds of people that often populate the screen and really making you appreciate the orchestral soundtrack. (An obviously less impressive Dolby 2.0 stereo track is on board as well.) A series of deleted/alternate scenes can be found under the Special Features menu--nothing to write home about, just a few chaste sex scenes between Gosling and Pike (and an extended post-coital conversation) alongside introductions to/explanations for Beachum that feel straight out of Screenwriting 101.
The "two alternate endings" billed on said slipcover are essentially one and the same: Instead of being invited in, Beachum sneaks into Crawford's house to deliver the final whammy; the "second" of these endings incorporates a little B-roll footage, seemingly to imply that Beachum's actions were planned in coordination with the cops. Both versions were probably rejected to avoid any question of trespassing that may have interfered with our hero's unequivocal success. Regardless, either would've provided a better capper than what the final product delivers. The theatrical trailer finishes off the film-related supplements, while "Sneak Peeks" brings up a block of trailers--for The Golden Compass, The Number 23, Michael Clayton, the 25th Anniversary super-giga-maximum-turbo edition of Blade Runner, and some awful-looking direct-to-video job entitled Jekyll--that also pops up automatically when you load the disc. Originally published: October 11, 2007.