Halfway through “Fracture,” murderous mastermind Ted Crawford, played by the calculating Anthony Hopkins, reveals what he believes to be his greatest strength: his unmatched ability to discover the tiniest fracture — that is, weakness — of any person and then to exploit it.
If Crawford were to analyze the film he stars in, he would ironically have trouble finding the “fracture,” as the film has few glaring weaknesses. Rather, Crawford would discover a more general shortcoming in the film — that while it may have few weaknesses, it also has no outstanding strengths. Viewers will have difficulty remembering Crawford’s character a few weeks after viewing the movie, as the undistinguished film ultimately blurs into every other “cocky lawyer meets his match” movie shown nightly on TNT. What viewers may remember, however, is Ryan Gosling’s captivating performance as Willy Beachum, a smart-aleck Southern lawyer who, we’re bluntly reminded time and time again, hates losing.
Gosling’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men,” down to the slightest mannerism. For Gosling, “Fracture” represents the completion of a trifecta of stellar but disparate performances, suggesting that Cruise-like stardom may be down the road. His turn in “The Notebook” cemented his romantic appeal, while “Half Nelson” confirmed his serious acting chops and “Fracture” serves as proof that he can carry a mainstream blockbuster, if given the right vehicle.
The film opens as Crawford coldly walks into a hotel and discovers his wife is having an affair. After a few drawn-out scenes of dialogue, the film finally delivers the clip promised by the trailer, as Crawford shoots his wife with a bitter witticism. Enter Willy Beachum, the small-time government lawyer who never loses. Beachum is given Crawford’s case as his last assignment before beginning a job at a big-time private firm, where his boss is (what else?) a sexy and seductive blond.
Of course, the film suggests, if an attractive woman has reached a position of power in a firm, she will naturally sleep with her charismatic employee without hesitation, holding lingering glances during their first meeting. After all, how else could she have gotten to this position of power? The uninspired romance unfolds simultaneously with Crawford’s trial, as Beachum quickly finds himself unprepared and in over his head, his lush job suddenly in jeopardy as a result of his mediocre performance in the case.
The film is at its best in the scenes featuring only Gosling and Hopkins. Hopkins, very much channeling Arvin Sloane from “Alias” or Ben Linus from “Lost,” plays the manipulative, clever villain to perfection, knowing exactly how to deliver his well-written lines to maximum effect. Likewise, watching Gosling work off Hopkins is impressive. Gosling makes Beachum’s character sympathetic, and his inevitable fall and rise is convincing and poignant. In interrogation scenes, the small things — such as Hopkins’ dashing hands and Gosling’s expressive eyes — work together to allow the scenes to convey a lot more than what is written on the page.
Despite the inspired casting of Gosling and Hopkins, the plot and aesthetic are as generic as they come — not necessarily in a bad way, but in a manner that gives the film very little lasting import. Minor missteps, such as the inexplicably jolting camerawork that constantly breaks the fourth wall and the contrived legal devices, detract from the film slightly, but “Fracture” is generally entertaining throughout. The film is worth seeing, if only to watch the Gosling-Hopkins interaction, and, presumably, to see if the good guy wins in the end — as if you didn’t already know.