When you see a lot of movies, you fervently hope they won't blow it at the end. There's a legion of movies that are fine until the moment of truth, and then they collapse or turn mediocre. Sometimes they just end.
One of my favorite movies that kept its potency at the end is No Way Out (1987), directed by Roger Donaldson, and starring Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman. It's a rare movie in which the ending equaled what had come before.
This year's Disturbia is an example of a very good movie with a very nondescript ending. The ending is perfunctory, when it easily could be more.
When you see Fracture, you know its conclusion is going to be important. The director of Fracture is Gregory Hoblit, whose Primal Fear (1996) was tricky but effective. Hoblit has shown he knows how to end a movie, so we have high hopes.
Fracture is a cat-and-canary tale about a compelling battle of wills. Aeronautical engineer Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) has figured out a plan to get away with shooting his wife. She is involved in an affair, and he exacts his vengeance. He shoots her in the head, leaving her in a vegetative coma. Then he confesses to the crime.
His adversary -- the unsuspecting canary -- is Assistant District Attorney Willie Beachum (Ryan Gosling), who takes the case thinking it will be quick and easy. It is going to be his last case in the District Attorney's office before he becomes a member of a powerful corporate law firm.
But things aren't what they seem. And so the screen is set for a punishing duel.
Hopkins and Gosling make an artful pair of adversaries. Per usual, Hopkins slyly nibbles the scenery, while Gosling stares at it. Gosling -- an accomplished young actor -- surprisingly uses a lot of mannerisms, but mannerisms really don't flesh out a part.
Rosamund Pike, as corporate hotshot Nikki Gardner, is more mannerism than character as love interest for Willie.
But essentially the movie relies on its two leading actors, the director and the script.
Director Hoblit is showy. He never saw an aerial shot he didn't love. And he lusts after lighting effects. There's light on half a face, on a hand, on another face. Light, light. light.
Hoblit also depends on music to carry too much of his film. He uses incessant music -- violins and percussion -- to try to ratchet up the emotion.
Hoblit doesn't reference Hitchcock as well as director Caruso did in Disturbia, but he does offer a few red herrings to keep us guessing. What did happen to the gun?
Hoblit does exhibit a good sense of suspense in one scene -- when the prosecutor races to the hospital to try to save a victim.
But the crux of the film is the script, and the key to that crux is the ending.
The ending of Fracture is porridge.
The ingredients are present, but they're dissipated. What could have been a brilliant climax and heady denouement becomes bland.
One of the main questions in Fracture is -- what became of the weapon? When it's finally revealed, it's clever, but it doesn't have the impact it should.
The revelation has to compete with a scene of dialogue that fritters away its impact.
Hoblit is too concerned with cheap reactions -- is Willie going to shoot Crawford? Of course not. But Hoblit offers us that scenario instead of sharp dialogue.
The ending shouldn't contain some of the weakest dialogue in the movie, but it does.
Maybe Hoblit and his writers -- Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers -- just got tired out or maybe the moguls interferred.
Fracture has a few surprises, but trickery is a questionable substitute for substance. Hoblit too often opts for the former.
The ending, which is muddled and cluttered, prevents Fracture from staying intact.
Fracture is an entertaining movie that should be better than it is.
And that's a disappointing ending.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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