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Big actors overload movie made for the small screen.



In Fracture, a cuckolded husband, Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), shoots his cheating wife (Embeth Davidtz). Events play out for the audience so that there is no doubt of his guilt. Arrested, Crawford confesses; along with a gun and no alibi, the authorities have an airtight case. So why does Crawford seem so smug and confident that he will get off?

Ryan Gosling plays assistant district attorney Willie Beachum (yes, he's a young, hotshot D.A. with a 97 percent conviction rate), brought in to prosecute Crawford. Gosling was great last year in Half Nelson, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination. But Gosling's work in Fracture may put his coronation ceremony on hold: His Beachum is an over-studied panoply of mannerisms and physical quirks. Gosling's hands and face are always doing something, and it is evident in every moment that he is acting. (The Oklahoma accent the script saddles him with doesn't help.)

Hopkins plays — surprise — a smart guy. Here he's an engineer or something who investigates airplane crashes, able to preternaturally determine where the break in the plane happened with his keen ability to sniff out weaknesses. Will he be able to apply that talent to pulling off the perfect crime and outwitting his foes on the other side of the law? As one good guy says to another, "The guy's screwing with us. He's stacking the deck." Er, too bad the script can't keep pace with its premise.

Fracture is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who has a couple of very good films to his name: Primal Fear (1996) and Fallen (1998). Primal Fear was a small miracle of a movie, where the confluence of brilliant typecasting (Richard Gere as a sleazy defense attorney), the presence of great, then-untapped actors (Edward Norton and Laura Linney), and a morally diffuse script were foisted on an unsuspecting audience.

Though Fracture is a return to the crime-trial genre for Hoblit and another in a line of kinda-thrillers, he directs the movie as if he's never seen his kind of movie in a theater before. Action is muddled and indistinct; the image crowds the frame, leaving little negative space; and the camera often twirls in circles as if it were a particularly carefree 6-year-old. The whole mess is disorienting and a little sickening. Fracture may be the first movie I've seen that I think will be better to watch on the small screen. Not that I'll bother to find out.


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