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May 2, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Fracture

I couldn't help but think of A Time to Kill, the 1996 John Grisham-adapted legal drama, when watching Fracture, the latest legal drama from director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear). Though they share many traits, the standout similarity is their stars. At the time of its release, Time to Kill star Matthew McConaughey was largely unknown to the mainstream moviegoer, with his most notable role being "Wooderson" in Richard Linklater's cult hit Dazed and Confused. After bouncing around from role to role in minor films and/or B+ movies (The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre), McConaughey earned well-deserved critical praise in John Sayles' Lone Star, which he parlayed into the sought-after role of Jake Brigance in the Grisham adaptation. And he nailed the role in what was essentially a by-the-numbers movie filled with actors you know and love (or love to hate).

Since then, however, McConaughey has never found his place in Hollywood, despite his looks and charisma. Lately, he's become the poster boy for awful romantic-comedies (not that I've seen any of them - just judging by the court of public opinion and my own sense of logic there) and has what can only be seen as a wasted career.

Flash forward to 2006. Ryan Gosling, an actor mostly known to the general public (if at all) for his role in the sappy chick flick The Notebook, stars in Half Nelson (reviewed here) and earns not only mass critical praise, but an Academy Award nomination and some well-deserved "It Boy" status. And now, here he is 6 months later (or so), starring alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins, no less.

Aside from the enduring memory of the respective films (good, not great), that's probably where the analogy will stops, or so we can hope. Gosling is terrific in what could have been a by-the-numbers role filled by any hot young Turk, and has demonstrated that he is an acting force to be reckoned with, on par with Hoblit's co-star from a decade ago, the Oscar-nominated (and eventually robbed) Edward Norton. Hopkins, meanwhile, brings a cocky debonair that only he can - regardless of the material, the man owns the screen when on it.

All that said, the film is limited by it's story and genre. Try as he might to take it above its potential, Hoblit can only do so much. The plot is predicated on some pretty flimsy details that had to happen in just the right way for any of it to make sense, and the "big twist" requires some leaps of faith as well.

Some remainder comments that I don't have a real place for:

* Despite the sometimes wonky plot, the writing is generally strong and armed with a sharp wit - particularly during an exchange between Gosling and a detective character played by Billy Burke regarding the smartness of Hopkins' character. Hilarious.

* Soon-to-be ubiquitous Brit Rosamund Pike co-stars as Gosling's "supervisor"/love interest. Though she appears to be a strong actress, her role is generally wasted on cliches and then unveiled to be little more than a prostitute for another law firm. Ouch.

* There is some creativity that went into the opening credits (an art installation featuring marbles - looks better than that sounds). HBO has a "First Look" on the film that shows some of the work that went into making them. Interesting stuff.

* What an awful poster. Talk about a lack of creativity there - sure, they both have a squinty, "I'm tough" look upon their faces, but two head shots on a black background? Meh.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"Darn tootin'!"

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Fracture"

Gaylord said...

Hey Fletch, you got a joint? ... you'd be a whole lot cooler if you did...

(Wooderson rules.)

Fletch said...

Check you later! [/Slater]