By Pete Vonder Haar | April 22, 2007

Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is a systematic and methodical man. The head of an aeronautical engineering firm, he also painstakingly constructs intricate models in his spare time. His leisure activities are about to be curtailed however, for he’s just confirmed that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair. Pausing momentarily to consider that maybe marrying a woman 30 years his junior wasn’t such a great idea, he hightails it back to their stately home and, upon her return, shoots her in the head.

Surprisingly, the gunshot doesn’t kill her, so Crawford finds himself on the hook for attempted murder. He elects to defend himself, which suits Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) the District Attorney assigned to the case, just fine. Beachum is halfway out the door on his way to a better paying corporate gig and believes nailing Crawford, who has conveniently given a full confession, will be a slam dunk. Obviously, this couldn’t be further from the truth, for Crawford has systematically and methodically set Beachum up for a fall, betting that the young man will be too preoccupied with impressing his new bosses to thoroughly prepare for his last criminal case.

“Fracture” shoots high, but is really a fairly predictable psychological drama. Writers Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers would have us believe Crawford is a genius, and maybe he is, but for such an allegedly intelligent person, he relies extensively on luck to execute his cunning plan. For example, we learn early on that the Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), the hostage negotiator sent to talk to Crawford after he pops his wife, and the Other Man are one and the same. I don’t know how many hostage negotiators the LAPD has, but Crawford’s whole scheme relies on them sending the one guy on force that also happens to be slipping it to his wife. Not only that, but Nunally chooses to hide the affair from Beachum, dramatically increasing the chances the case will be dismissed, rather than come clean about it, which might help establish a little something called “motive.”

Crawford is also unrealistically arrogant. Not unrealistic in the sense that it’s undeserved – he’s obviously a millionaire, drives a Ferrari, and has a hot wife – but for all his preparation and planning, he ends up neglecting one legal angle that anyone who’s watched a half dozen episodes of “Law and Order” would’ve picked up on. Hopkins is fine, as he always is, imbuing Crawford with just the right amount of anal retentiveness and playful cruelty to make him interesting, but the script undermines his efforts.

As for Gosling, “The Notebook” made me want to chew tinfoil, but he won me back with a powerful performance in “Half Nelson.” In “Fracture,” unfortunately, he’s following an acting template laid out by countless John Grisham movies and episodes of “Perry Mason,” and it requires little effort. There’s even a feeble romantic subplot involving his soon-to-be supervisor (Rosamund Pike) that looks like it was thrown in not because of any compelling chemistry between the two, but merely to flesh out the movie’s running. time. “Fracture” may be smarter than the majority of movies out there, but it’s not half as clever as it thinks it is.

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