Hubris, as the ancient Greeks were oft wont to mull in their plays and myths, is a fatal flaw. It’s the one that the gods of those self same ancient Greeks couldn’t abide and hence, the one that got them interested in smiting the one showing it. FRACTURE is a film that would warm the cockles of those ancient Greek hearts. Like many of those plays and myths, coincidence looms large over the plotting, and the protagonists have that hubris thing by the bucketful.
They are Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a self-made millionaire and builder of devices that do nothing but roll balls around in a series of intricate loops, and Willie Beachum (Ryan Gosling), an assistant D.A. straight out of a Podunk town with much bigger plans for himself and the drawl he self-consciously retains. The specific thing that makes them both so cocky is their both knowing how very, very smart they are. For Beachum, it’s cleverly snagging a shot at one of the toniest and most exclusive law firms in Los Angeles. For Crawford, it’s working out a fiendishly clever plan to murder his cheating wife (Embeth Davidtz) and get away with it. Timing, another word for coincidence, is everything and days before Beachum is due to step into the big leagues of corporate law, he lands one last case: Crawford’s. With a signed confession from the suspect, and said suspect insisting on conducting his own defense, it looks like a slam dunk for Beachum’s swan song in public service. Naturally, problems crop up. The gun recovered at the scene has never been fired. The detective who heard Crawford’s oral confession and was present when the signed the written one, was the man with whom Crawford’s wife was having the affair. And then there’s Beachum’s new job, the one in the person of his comely new boss (Rosamund Pike), who, like the law firm she works for, doesn’t want to be kept waiting for their new, and probationary, attorney to tie up loose ends elsewhere.
Crawford keeps getting the better of Beachum and Beachum’s fatal flaw, stemming from that hubris thing, can’t walk away from that. Even when sticking with a trial that is going south fast for him means not only losing his shot at the big time, but also the job with the D.A.’s office. As his boss there (David Strathairn as the soul of integrity and of hardball) advises him, heads will have to roll if Crawford walks and the handy head will be Beachum’s.
The delight in watching this type of story play out is the cat-and-mouse element involved. Crawford in jail yet eminently serene while ever so politely goading Beachum, and Beachum eminently confident even while having that aforementioned head handed to him by the guy behind bars. One might reasonably think that watching two completely despicable characters would be repellent rather than entertaining, yet the tantalizing promise of a comeuppance or two completely avoids that trap. As does the sharp dialogue played by two actors who are smart enough to not pander to the audience. They celebrate all that is worst in their characters with a readily apparent élan that renders amorality grotesquely fascinating. Adding to the fun is stylish direction by Gregory Hoblit that plays (mostly) fair with that same audience while indulging in some playful misdirection.
FRACTURE is slight escapist fare but extremely well executed as two proverbial wrongs struggle along trying to avoid making a right. Forget the one or two less than solid plot points and concentrate on two actors at the top of their respective games having a splendid time on screen.