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05/10/2007 - FRACTURE

FRACTURE by Tom McCurrie

There's nothing like a good mystery to hook a moviegoer. No matter how poorly executed the movie itself may be, audiences will almost always stay to the very end of a mystery since they all want to know "whodunit." Of course, in the new film FRACTURE, it's not so much "whodunit" but "how'd he do it"- still, the effect is pretty much the same.

Written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers, and directed by Gregory Hoblit, FRACTURE tells the tale of a seemingly open and shut case. A man (Anthony Hopkins) shoots his wife for having an affair, plunging her into a coma. The police find the gun in Hopkins' hand, and get a full confession from him as well. A young, opportunistic Deputy DA (Ryan Gosling) agrees to take the case since it will be so easy to prosecute. Gosling is about to take a much better-paying job with a corporate law firm, so he doesn't want to spend any more time in the District Attorney's Office than he has to.

Unfortunately for Gosling, the case against Hopkins proves to be much harder to prosecute than he expects. Ballistics proves the gun in Hopkins' hand wasn't the weapon that shot his wife, while Hopkins' confession is ruled as coerced because his wife's lover, who turns out to be a police detective/hostage negotiator, was in the interrogation room when he was giving it. Because neither the gun nor the confession can now be admitted as evidence, Hopkins is found innocent on a technicality. This defeat sends Gosling's career into a tailspin, and he soon becomes obsessed with proving Hopkins guilty, especially since Hopkins now wants to take his wife off life-support (which he is legally permitted to do now that he's a free man) and finish the job he started when he shot her in the first place.

But before Gosling can do anything about that, he has to answer two baffling questions: where is the actual weapon that shot Hopkins' wife, and if Hopkins didn't shoot his wife, who did?

As you can see, FRACTURE generates some nice mystery to keep viewers watching till the end, something every filmmaker prays for. Throw in able performances by reliable vet Hopkins and rising star Gosling, some clever twists (i.e., Hopkins' gun not turning out to be the one that shot his wife) and a fast pace courtesy of director Hoblit, and you should have a picture that gets four stars.

But sometimes you can have one twist too many, especially when the twist you've been hungering for the most, the one that supposedly solves the mystery, produces more questions than answers.

Since FRACTURE has been out for a few weeks, I'm going to reveal some spoilers to explain why the major twist doesn't work - if you haven't seen the movie yet and still want to PLEASE DON'T READ ANY FURTHER.

The major twist is a bit complicated, so here goes. It turns out Hopkins' gun and the lover's gun were the same make and model. So Hopkins switched the guns before the crime, used the lover's gun to shoot the wife, then switched the guns back when the lover arrived on the scene as the hostage negotiator. The lover walked away from the crime scene with the (attempted) murder weapon on his hip, preventing the police from finding said weapon which in turn led to Hopkins being acquitted of shooting his wife since the gun he owned wasn't tied to the crime by ballistics.

Gosling figures all this out, and finally achieves his victory over Hopkins after Hopkins unplugs his wife from life-support, thinking he's finally gotten away with murder. In fact, all Hopkins got away with is attempted murder, which is the charge for which he was acquitted in court. Using the new evidence that the wife was shot by the lover's gun, Gosling can now try Hopkins for murdering his wife by taking her off the ventilator, a completely different charge that allows Gosling to skirt the double jeopardy laws Hopkins thought protected him from further punishment.

Okay, admittedly this is a very cool twist. But it's a very cool twist that doesn't hold up to close inspection. That's because Gosling has no proof that Hopkins switched the guns before he shot his wife that would hold up in court. Without that, all Hopkins has to say is the lover shot his wife - after all, it was the lover's gun that put his wife into a coma, not his own. And there were no witnesses to the shooting to say otherwise. Add to this fact that the lover has by this time committed suicide over his despair at Hopkins being acquitted of attempted murder and there is literally no one to dispute his story. So why is Gosling behaving as if he has Hopkins practically convicted of murder at the end? And why does Hopkins act as if his intricate plan has been foiled? If Gosling taped Hopkins admitting he switched the guns, or if some footage surfaced that showed him doing just that, then the twist would work perfectly. But the script makes no mention of either of these two things, so the twist doesn't work one bit, ending the film on a note of confusion rather than satisfaction.

It's a good idea to make your final twist surprising - it's an even better idea to make it plausible.

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is finally finishing up a really awesome novel.


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