Sir Anthony Hopkins trots out another psycho you'll hate to love in Fracture
, a by-the-numbers legal thriller that's redeemed by electric performances from its two leads. Hopkins is on fine accent-bending, twinkle-eyed form as aeronautics engineer Ted Crawford, who has devised the perfect way to bump off his cheating wife. Ryan Gosling positively crackles as Willy Beachum, the cocky public prosecutor looking to add Crawford to his long list of successful convictions, before moving into the lucrative world of corporate law.
Despite the glossy look and audience-friendly pacing, it's Hopkins and Gosling's charisma-duelling that provides the film's biggest reward. Apart, they're enjoyable enough, but when they get together to butt intellects -- with Hopkins at his most impish -- things really come to life. Given that Crawford is a rich, sneering murderer and Beachum is a swaggering money-hungry upstart, you'd be forgiven for wondering why you should care at all. This is, after all, an alienating world of elite high-rollers. Not even Rosamund Pike, as Gosling's highly-strung legal eagle love interest elicits any sympathy. But Hopkins and Gosling imbue their characters with such undeniable charm that you could actually end up rooting for either. Without the chemistry, you'd be left with a clever, well-crafted but ultimately empty thriller. It hides its final twist well, but the true triumph is in the casting. --Luke Mawson
Courtroom drama starring Anthony Hopkins. Engineering tycoon Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is a meticulous man in all things but, when he shoots his wife for stepping out on him, he may have taken on more than he can control. He confesses to the crime, gains the right to represent himself in court and moves to trial as soon as possible. The prosecutor is Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) - a young, upwardly mobile lawyer soon to join a reputable firm and start his big earning years. Beachum believes the case is a cake walk but Crawford has a few details up his sleeve that'll put the young attorney firmly on the back foot. For example, the arresting officer was the man his wife had been having an affair with. The thrust and parry of Beachum and Crawford in the courtroom provide the meat of the film. The confident Crawford waxes grandiloquent like George Galloway in front of congress as Beachum slowly, steadily, takes it on the chin but homes in on the essence of Ted's game.