DVD Release Date:  August 14, 2007
Theatrical Release Date:  April 20, 2007
Rating:  R (for language and sexual situations)
Genre:  Drama
Run Time:  112 min.
Director:  Gregory Hoblit
Actors:  Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Billy Burke, Embeth Davidtz, Fiona Shaw

For an actor, the downside of capturing the public’s imagination through a character portrayal is in trying to move past that one performance. Anthony Hopkins has carried this burden, having given a performance for the ages with his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.

Hopkins, an accomplished actor by the time he appeared in “Lambs,” has embodied that role twice more, in the lesser films Hannibal and Red Dragon. He’s also played fatherly characters and regal statesmen in a number of high-profile films, such as Amistad and The Edge. But as consistently good as Hopkins has been in those roles, his steely blue eyes best embody screen villains like Lecter.

Fracture, a legal thriller co-starring Ryan Gosling, gives the older actor his juiciest role in years, and the veteran performer makes the most of it. Although it lags for stretches, and Gosling’s character is far less interesting than Hopkins’, the movie is worth seeing for its portrayal of villainy and the cat-and-mouse legal game that will keep viewers guessing until the final moments.

Hopkins stars as Ted Crawford, an aeronautics expert who suspects his wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), of an extramarital affair. After his suspicions are confirmed, Crawford confronts Jennifer and shoots her in the head. There is never any doubt about his guilt.

Law enforcement descends on Crawford’s home and a hostage negotiator, Rob Nunally (Billy Burke), gains entry to the home. Crawford takes a ghoulish delight in pointing out the wounded woman to the negotiator, who, we discover, was also the wife’s lover.

A separate storyline introduces Assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum (Gosling), a prosecutor on a hot streak who informs his boss, Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn), that he’s just secured employment (and a hefty pay raise) with a private firm. He agrees to take on Crawford’s prosecution as his last case for Lobruto. Crawford has confessed and the murder weapon has been found, so it’ll be slam-dunk for Beachum.

With one foot already in his new office, Beachum is surprised when Crawford, representing himself, manages to raise serious questions about the evidence and whether his earlier confession is admissible.

Unfortunately, these colorful courtroom interactions with Crawford are too few, as the film decides to focus on Beachum’s out-of-nowhere relationship with a new female boss (Rosamund Pike), based on nothing more, it seems, than the glamour exuded by the two stars. Isn’t it inevitable that they’ll get together? Why bother to explain their attraction or the ethical issues surrounding such professional relationships?

Another subplot has the brooding boyfriend of the deceased, sensing that the killer might get away with murdering his beloved, growing ever more desperate to seal Crawford’s guilt. By pulling a few strings, he can manufacture evidence to fit the crime as he understands it. His only challenge is getting Beachum to go along with the setup. Beachum knows that to do otherwise would leave open the possibility of a high-profile loss that would doom his chances at the new firm.

Still another subplot reveals a growing connection between Beachum and Crawford’s comatose wife (she survives the shooting). Although Beachum’s sense of obligation to the shooting victim is yet another underdeveloped aspect of the story, the film’s treatment of the humanity of the victim is life-affirming.