Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling. Directed by Gregory Hoblit).

Running Time: 113 mins
Rated: Rated M (moderate violence, moderate coarse language)

Fracture is a satisfying crime thriller with a courtroom background.

The director is Gregory Hoblit who began his career in television (especially with Hill Street Blues) and telemovies (Roe vs Wade). He moved to cinema features with a striking courtroom thriller and murder mystery, Primal Fear with Richard Gere and Edward Naughton. He has not made so many films but most of them are different and exciting (Fallen, Frequency) though his war film, Hart's War was not so effective.

This time he has made not a whodunit, nor a howdunit (though that is important), not a whydunit. We know this immediately. This is more of a how-can-you-prove-it?

The murder occurs early in the film. Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, an engineering expert who tests metals and surfaces for pressures and breaking points and enjoys himself with elaborate Rube Goldberg constructions (which the audience finds fascinating as well). He is brusque, arrogant, clever and drives his fast car very fast. So, it is not such a surprise when his wife (Embeth Davidtz) comes home after a meeting with her lover (Billy Burke) and, after some ironic wordplay, he shoots her. When the police arrive, he confesses. Where to go from here?

This is when Fracture becomes really interesting because Crawford wants to defend himself since he has set up the case so that the prosecution will have no admissible evidence. Enter ambitious, arrogant young prosecutor from the DAs office (Ryan Gosling) who is about to go upmarket in the world of corporate lawyers. He is asked to take on this open and shut case. No problem. He does. And then the problems start, not only for the case itself but for his own career - and his own integrity. As the director remarked, 'he grows a soul'. In the meantime, Crawford is testing his surfaces and breaking points.

Anthony Hopkins obviously relishes this role, an evil man who is smart, articulate, sardonic, who can taunt the young lawyer with a wink or a raised eyebrow. Yes, we all think of Hannibal Lecter - but this is a quieter, more calmly calculating destroyer. Ryan Gosling (The Believer, The Notebook, Half Nelson) looks young, acts brash, prides himself on being a winner and has visions of corporate high-flying. Gosling is quite convincing as the careless and presumptuous lawyer who gets his comeuppance but whose pride and conscience are hurt and who makes some decisions which show he might have some integrity.

The screenplay is well-written with a lot of wit and plenty of edge, especially in the courtroom scenes. There is a strong cast of character actors as well. David Strathairn is the head of the department for prosecutions. Rosamund Pike is the calculating and self-serving representative of the corporate lawyers. Cliff Curtis is an earnest detective and Billy Burke is the lover and arresting officer who is also Crawford's target.

How can the young lawyer possibly take Crawford down within the legal system? The final twist is interesting and effective.

Village Roadshow Out August 2

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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