As seen on TV

Ryan Gosling was believable as a loving country bumpkin in The Notebook and as a football jock in Remember the Titans. Hell, he was even plausible as a drug-addicted teacher in Half Nelson.

Ryan Gosling was believable as a loving country bumpkin in The Notebook and as a football jock in Remember the Titans. Hell, he was even plausible as a drug-addicted teacher in Half Nelson.

Ryan Gosling does not portray a good assistant district attorney.

The new film Fracture stars Gosling as Willy Beachum, a young attorney whose career in the public sector is coming to an end as he prepares to move into a high-rise office for a private firm specializing in corporate law. In his final assignment for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, Beachum represents the people in a case against Ted Crawford, a structural engineer who shot his wife point-blank and then confessed to the murder when a detective arrived on the scene.

Anthony Hopkins plays Crawford, the man who shot his wife after learning of her extramarital activities. Her affair was with the very detective who arrives to arrest Crawford, as Crawford has planned. Crawford makes his confession and is arrested as the detective weeps for his lover–though she isn’t dead, just comatose. This first 15 minutes of plot development shows some glimmering promise of a deep, twisting crime drama worth the price of theater admission and a bucket of buttery popcorn.

Alas, the film goes downhill from here, as Gosling utterly butchers his role as a young attorney on the rise. Gosling carries himself with all of the swaggering smugness that makes fictional attorneys Perry Mason and Jack McCoy believable, but he forgets to follow through with a sense of infinite legal wisdom and complete control over the courtroom. Gosling’s role as Beachum is further destroyed by his attempt at a country accent, though that may be the fault of the scriptwriters-how could they expect a Canadian actor to sound like a good ol’ boy?

Fracture’s courtroom scenes are nothing new to legal thriller-suspense films. Neither the film’s dramatic camera movements nor the occasionally humorous dialogue cover up the lack of intensity, by now expected of the genre. If Fracture had been released before The Firm or A Few Good Men, Gosling might have been more exciting. As it stands, this film just lacks the sort of punch that can be seen every night on Law & Order.

There is an attempted love story between Beachum and his new boss at the private firm, played by Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, The Libertine). The connection isn’t well forged and there are no steamy scenes of romance or witty dialogue (well, there are a few tries at wittiness, all of which fall short) to bring substance to their supposed relationship. Pike plays a slightly more believable attorney than Gosling, though their lackluster performances as legal minds create a severe lack of chemistry throughout the film.

Beachum figures his final case as assistant district attorney to be open-and-close, and he doesn’t do any trial preparation, let alone review the confession and gun seizure with detectives. Crawford’s confession and the gun he used to shoot his wife quickly become inadmissible, thanks to Crawford’s clever planning and Beachum’s laziness. The plot devices used for these “surprises” are pretty weak–unless Fracture is your first suspense film, you can see the exclusions of evidence coming from 20 minutes away.

Hopkins does his best to portray a ruthless and brilliant criminal, though Crawford doesn’t at all compare to Hopkins’ role as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs and its sequels. Hopkins brings some credibility to the story as Crawford, but not even he can quarterback the film well enough to be worth the cost of theater admission.

The only other role that makes Fracture worth seeing is David Strathairn (Sneakers, L.A. Confidential) as D.A. Joe Lobruto, Beachum’s boss and a noble attorney who feels that money isn’t as important as justice. Strathairn exudes the cool precision of a good attorney and left me wondering if the film’s underlying message is that hotshot lawyers with fast cars and big houses are sloppy idiots, whereas humble civil servants are more deserving of a corporate attorney’s salary.

The soundtrack is nothing to write home about either. Actually, music is almost entirely absent from the film, save for a few insipid moments when the soundtrack blandly follows the action of the film, peaking in crescendo when a scene climaxes and dying away when dialogue resumes.

There is no profound message to be found in Fracture and no one is going to be inspired to become an attorney based on this film. If you watch Law & Order, or even that God-awful CSI: Miami show, you’re going to know the ending 15 minutes before it happens. The film finishes with an assumed conclusion after the penultimate plot twist, though it doesn’t actually show what happens with Crawford or Beachum.

Overall, however, Fracture isn’t a bad film. It isn’t any good either, and that’s why you’ll want to wait for a rental to watch this one. Had someone other than Gosling played Beachum, the film would have been far better. If you’re just a sucker for legal suspense films, go ahead and watch it in a theater, but take a mouth guard for the moments you’ll spend gnashing your teeth during each new line that Gosling delivers.