When Souls ‘Fracture’

Legal flick weighs wealth and virtue.

By Steve Burgess 20 Apr 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess reviews films for The Tyee every second Friday.

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In the new courtroom drama, Fracture, the forces of light and darkness battle for the soul of an ambitious young lawyer. And we get to watch the same process playing out in the career of Ryan Gosling.

Directed by TV veteran Gregory Hoblit, Fracture co-stars Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector, here re-named Ted Crawford and in this case restricting himself to killing instead of killing and eating. Tagging Hopkins’ character as a Hannibal Lector rerun may seem like an easy shot, but he asked for it. So did the screenplay. A cool predator with a mischievous gleam, blessed with an Olympian intellect, God-like self-confidence and the practiced mannerisms of Anthony Hopkins -- who else comes to mind?

Gosling, the Canadian actor fresh from his much-deserved Oscar nomination for playing a crackhead teacher in last year’s independent gem Half Nelson, is in very different territory here both dramatically and professionally. Gosling plays Willy Beachum, a young hotshot in the Los Angeles D.A.’s office who is almost out the door on his way to hot German wheels and cool Italian furnishings at a prestigious private firm. One last case intrudes -- a deceptively simple bit of business. Aeronautics engineer Ted Crawford has shot his wife, confessed, and is now acting as his own lawyer. Young Willy can handle this puppy and still make it to the welcome party at his new firm. Or, if we know Hannibal Lector, maybe not.

Light and dark

Happily, it is no hardship to watch Hopkins do his villain shtick. With Hopkins you don’t even need much foreshadowing -- it’s enough to simply watch his demeanour, defiantly serene even as the damning circumstances pile up. We get the foreshadowing anyway, of course. “I’m not going to play games with you,” says cocky young Willy.

“I’m afraid you have to, old sport,” replies Crawford/Lector.

The games begin. Our young hotshot is suddenly surprised to find the rug no longer beneath his feet as his ass hits the courtroom floor. Choices between wealth and virtue give way to other choices -- between truth and deception, between light and dark. The latter decision involves turkey meat. It’s a wonderfully awkward Thanksgiving dinner scene which, while slightly implausible, is still fun.

That sums up Fracture, pretty much. It’s better than average, doesn’t insult your intelligence, and is digestible without leaving behind so much as a gravy stain. The perfect, perfectly forgettable three-star movie.

So as you watch the battle for the soul of Willy Beachum, you might spare a moment to contemplate: whither Ryan Gosling? Those few who took in Half Nelson may find it downright disorienting to see him ensconced in such a high-gloss production so soon afterward. It’s like watching your favourite ballplayer get traded to the Yanks.

But that’s the new model. Even Tilda Swinton turns up in The Chronicles of Narnia. Blockbuster hits grant freedom to do art. The career of Brad Pitt is close to the modern Hollywood ideal -- Ocean’s 13, right after Babel. You can have it all if you alternate wisely. Get the balance right and you’re golden. Get the mix wrong and you’re Nicholas Cage.

Good luck, young Ryan. Don’t do Ghost Rider.

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