Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Despite Starring Two Acting Legends, Fracture Is Criminally Forgettable

Now that he's spent the 2010's working with the likes of Denis Villeneuve, Damien Chazelle and Shane Black, it's hard to imagine an era where Ryan Gosling would star in a disposable courtroom thriller like Fracture. But this hunky leading man of very few words did just that back in 2007 in between two movies, Half Nelson and Lars and the Real Girl, that saw him deliver two of his best performances. Those two motion pictures became more of the norm for Gosling going forward whereas Fracture, as the years go on and on, looks more and more like a strange anomaly for one of the most fascinating modern leading men in American cinema.

Oddly, Fracture suffers from a similar fault that plagued the new Zac Efron Ted Bundy movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Both films just aren't as suspenseful as they could have been because they lack tension, in both cases, we know the people accused of being killers are, in fact, killers, so what suspense is there in watching characters try to figure out if they actually are killers. In the case of Fracture, our killer is Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a man who kills his wife in the opening scene with a gun that the cops aren't able to find once they inspect the crime scene afterwards. Ted proceeds to be his own lawyer for the impending court case charging him with his wife's death while up-and-coming attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) is the one in charge of prosecuting Ted.

Ted seems like he's doomed to fail during the trial but it turns out he's a cunning fellow who keeps himself one step ahead of Willy at every turn. Willy becomes more and more frustrated with the lack of evidence or foolproof witnesses at his disposal and he becomes obsessed with bringing Ted down. Ted is a figure who clearly was written to allow Anthony Hopkins to do his Hannibal Lecter routine. Once again, Hopkins is in charge of playing a bloodthirsty fellow who is also highly intelligent and speaks in a refined manner not normally associated directly with psychopaths, though Tad is at least played a touch more playful than Hannibal. 

Anthony Hopkins is a phenomenal actor who can capture a viewers attention effortlessly even in the worst Transformers movie and he does have his share of moments in his Fracture performance that are appropriately chilling or amusing. But the role is such a copy of Hannibal Lecter that it never allows Hopkins to bring anything fresh to the table as an actor. Hopkins in Fracture feels like a performance akin to when Mike Myers and Dana Carvey showed up to the 91st Academy Awards just to do their Wayne's World catchphrases while introducing Bohemian Rhapsody. In other words, it's just talented performers brought out solely to do what's familiar to the audience rather than do something that takes advantage of their talents.

The only real standout part of Hopkins' performance is he delivers an accent that channels Jon Voight in Anaconda in how it keeps veering around from British to Irish to vaguely American. Accents seem to be a big problem for Fracture as Ryan Gosling speaks in a Southern accent that frequently goes into Huckleberry Hound territory. Everything in Gosling's performance in Fracture that isn't related to his accent is devoid of personality, a shame given how some of Gosling's best work as a performer has come from him communicating so much about a singular character in subtle means. The blame for Willy Beachum being such a boring character seems to rely mostly on the script, which fails to paint the character with any kinds of dimensions or personality of any kind.

Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers' screenplay is mostly a forgettable creation save for some goofy moments in the second act, like Willy receiving some cracked eggshells in the mail courtesy of Ted, that had me wishing Fracture had the gall to go silly and trashy. Fracture's opening scene ensures that it can't work properly as a suspenseful thriller, so why not just go for full-tilt campy fun? Thrown in some grandiose dialogue and intentionally overblown plot twists, ah, now that would have made Fracture entertaining to watch! Alas, director Gregory Hoblit seems to be on autopilot here as he delivers a thriller that manages to be utterly forgettable despite the fact that it pairs up Anthony Hopkins with Ryan Gosling.

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