If you look close enough, you'll find everyone has a weak spot.
Anthony Hopkins plays a brilliant, pathologically serene killer outwitting the good guys at every turn and taking a shine to a twentysomething law enforcer who can't conceal a rural accent and rugged origins. Could it be...? No, not The Silence of the Lambs, but an original mystery, Fracture, which plays a little like Lambs as an episode of Columbo, minus Columbo. Which means the film tells us from the get-go that Hopkins' character, a wealthy engineer, shoots his philandering wife (Embeth Davidtz) and leaves her in a vegetative state. From there, it should be a simple matter for young, assistant District Attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) to nail Crawford, who provides a full confession and even eschews counsel. That's good for Beachum, a slick winner with a vague background of deprivation, rapidly on his way out of public service after attracting the attention of a deep-pocket, private firm. What he doesn't know, however, is that Crawford has masterminded more than vengeance against his wife, and that the state's case against him is full of pre-arranged holes and a huge time-bomb that will send Beachum scrambling to keep the pieces together.
The story, conceived and co-scripted by Daniel Pyne (Doc Hollywood), goes down easily with a minimum of blood and violence, and should easily appeal to mystery buffs as well as old fans of Hopkins and new admirers of Oscar nominee Gosling (Half Nelson). The latter holds his own in multiple, two-character scenes with the masterful portrayer of Hannibal Lecter, pacing Beachum's reactions to Crawford's polite provocations so everything spills onto his youthful face: torn loyalties, confusion, gullibility. Director Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War), still best-known for decades of distinguished television work (NYPD Blue), brings the necessary intimacy to make the stars' chemistry work effectively. His noirish atmosphere is a little over the top, sometimes pushing the audience to a level of expectation that the film isn't really ready to deliver, but this, overall, is an enjoyable work. --Tom Keogh