Friday, August 31, 2007

FRACTURE: Intriguing Chess Game

FRACTURE (courtroom drama)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn and Rosamund Pike
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Time: 114 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
(Pic: Rosamund Pike & Ryan Gosling)
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? "I shot my wife," multi-millionaire Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) tells LAPD detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke) calmly as the police arrive at his house to find his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) lying in a pool of blood. Considering that Crawford later signs a confession to that effect, we would think that this is pretty much an open-and-shut case, wouldn't we?
Well, that is what Assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) thinks too, as he agrees to take the case - presumably his last - before he leaves to join a private law firm. Beachum considers himself a hotshot prosecutor with a 90-per-cent success rate. This high profile case would only add another feather to his cap, or so he thinks.

Beachum has another 'thing' coming. Crawford is not our regular jealous-husband-shoots-adulterous-wife type. After learning of his wife's affair with a young man, the aeronautical tycoon puts into motion a meticulous plot to punish his wife and her lover - as well as to allow himself to walk away from the trial a free man. Even with the signed confession, we find Beachum's case crumbling gradually as his list of evidence against Crawford is rejected, one by one. Is Beachum too arrogant for his own good? Or is he just a pawn in Crawford's 'perfect' scheme?

SMARTS & FLAWS: Directed by Gregory Hoblit (who gave us the spine-tingling 1996 murder mystery "Primal Fear"), "Fracture" is a cleverly devised courtroom chess game that makes us want to applaud each time we find Crawford 'check-mating' Beachum. This is really a movie about a clash of egos, pride and redemption - and at one point, we even find our protagonist almost succumbing to the 'dark side'.
Character development is solid, with the talented Hopkins holding court as usual, and Gosling's cocky prosecutor realising his mistakes and trying to pick up the pieces of his career. Every 'perfect crime' has a 'fracture' in its scheme, and it is up to Beachum - and us viewers - to find it.
The secondary stars are well-matched too. The classy and sultry Rosamund Pike (as Nikki Gardner) provides the requisite distraction as Beachum's would-be boss and love interest. David Strathairn is the level-headed Los Angeles District Attorney who understands what the odds are, and Billy Burke serves up the street-smarts as a cop who is not above fabricating evidence to nail a criminal.

Throughout the first one-and-a-half hours of the movie, we seem to be led by the nose through the legal mechanics of the plot. However, it is to the credit of screen-writers Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers that there are no sensational twists or melodramatic surprises in store. If you pay close attention, it is easy enough to spot the 'fracture', especially in the 'double jeopardy' system. We may notice other flaws too, like the conspicuous absence of family members of the comatose Jennifer at her hospital bed, and that nobody bothered to check the serial numbers of the guns involved in the shooting. All right, these are minor fractures, really.

THE VERDICT: The main thing is that the movie is entertaining enough to keep our minds working throughout the show.


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