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Ted Crawford has a problem: His wife is cheating on him. His solution? To shoot her. As Jennifer Crawford's blood pools on the tiled floor of their Hollywood Hills home, the wealthy entrepreneur and aerospace engineer coolly cleans prints off his gun, burns his clothes and scrubs his blood-spattered face.
And waits for the police to arrive.
First on the scene is LAPD hostage negotiator Rob Nunally—who, not so coincidentally, is the man who was sleeping with Jennifer. Crawford calmly confesses to the crime (his wife ends up brain-dead and on life support) and apparently turns over the murder weapon to Nunally, whereupon the grief-stricken "other man" flies into a rage and beats Crawford during his arrest. It's an open-and-shut case of attempted murder ... or so it seems.
Enter Willy Beachum, a hotshot deputy district attorney with one foot out the door on his way to a more lucrative private practice. He agrees to handle Crawford's case, but only because the man's conviction seems a foregone conclusion. He's not looking for complications. His eyes are fixed on the dollar signs attached to his new position at the exclusive firm Wooten Sims and on his beautiful new boss there, Nikki Gardner.
But Beachum gets more than he bargained for with Ted Crawford's case—much more. The cagey engineer has plotted the perfect crime, and one by one, every piece of evidence against him is disallowed on procedural technicalities. Suddenly, Willy Beachum is in the legal fight of his life as he scrambles to find even a shred of admissible evidence to put a would-be murderer away—not to mention salvaging his career and a once-promising, now-crumbling romantic relationship with Ms. Gardner.
As its title suggests, Fracture is (among other things) a story about weakness and moral failings. Oddly enough, the person who's most observant of others' vulnerabilities is Crawford. He's a student of Beachum's character—or lack thereof, initially—and his correct assessment of the young attorney's money-driven self-absorption is key to his strategy for securing an acquittal. In one of the film's most gripping scenes, he tells Beachum (who's beginning to realize he's in way over his head), "Look closely enough and you'll find everything has a weak spot, where, sooner or later, it will break." When Beachum predictably asks what his weakness is, Crawford doesn't miss a beat: "You're a winner."
That's the setup for the film's biggest moral conflict—the one that takes place within Willy Beachum. The young attorney navigates life as only a man who's cleverly worked the system can do. His successes and natural charm have made him insufferably arrogant. Obviously that's not positive. What is positive is how he ultimately responds to Crawford's manipulation of him and the legal system. Among other things, Beachum must face down the temptation to break the law to get a conviction. He's also forced to deal with significant failure for the first time. Along the way, Beachum's own selfish plans become less important than securing justice for Jennifer Crawford. (Beachum repeatedly visits the stricken, unconscious woman in the hospital, reads books to her and tries to keep her alive when it looks as if the plug is about to be pulled on her life support.)
Key to Beachum's character transformation is his boss and mentor, district attorney Joe Lobruto. The older attorney is patient and even-handed with Beachum's arrogance and immaturity. He gives Beachum a second chance at prosecuting Crawford when things initially go very badly. When the case against Crawford deteriorates even further, Lobruto compassionately coaches the chastened young lawyer on living with (and learning from) failure, as well as inviting him to keep practicing law when Beachum is ready to throw in the towel.
Other characters in Beachum's corner are Nikki (who believes deeply in him and risks her job to help him) and her father, a judge who understands Beachum's increasingly obsessive desire to put a "stake in the bad guy's heart." Judge Gardner also helps Beachum with a court order that would prevent the hospital from turning off Jennifer's life support.
Beyond Crawford sarcastically asking a distraught Beachum if he's found religion and God, Fracture's spiritual content is mostly restricted to figures of speech: Los Angeles city attorneys snidely refer to DA Lobruto as "god." Nikki jokingly speaks of working for Wooten Sims as making a deal with the devil and later tells Beachum that he has to "give the devil his due." Taunting the young deputy DA, Crawford calls the attorney's difficult situation an "unholy mess." A coerced confession is described with a biblical allusion as the "fruit of a poisonous tree."
The opening scene pictures Nunally and Jennifer Crawford in bed. Several intercut shots focus closely on their mashing torsos and bare skin—so closely, in fact, that it's hard to figure out exactly what you're looking at. The camera seems to avoid frontal nudity, but the overall effect is nonetheless explicit. The pair later cavorts in swimming suits in a hotel pool as Crawford spies on them. (He also breaks into their hotel room and notices her lingerie on the bed).
We see Beachum getting dressed and Nikki apparently unclothed but covered by a sheet in bed. It's clearly implied they've had sex. She shows her bare back while donning a sheer negligee. Other outfits reveal her cleavage, as does another shot of her in a skimpy nightie. Beachum's bare upper body gets screen time when he does pull-ups and then showers.
When Nunally finds Jennifer after she's been shot, Crawford suggestively describes how he can stop the bleeding by compressing her femoral artery (which is located in the groin area). Crawford and others also use crude expressions and double entendres to evoke mental images of, among other things, masturbation.
Ted shoots his wife in the face with a pistol at close range. We see her fall to the floor and blood pooling beneath her. He drags her to another part of the house, resulting in a wide crimson swath on the floor. A flashback to the shooting pictures her surprised expression as he pulls the trigger; a doctor offers a CSI-style forensic explanation of what the bullet did to her brain.
Crawford graphically describes the smell of his wife's mingled bodily fluids after he shoots her. Twice, Nunally's rage at Crawford propels him to pummel the older man with his fists, once at the crime scene, a second time in the courtroom. A man commits suicide with a gun, and we glimpse his body amid a pool of blood, too.
Crude or Profane Language
Eight or so f-words (including two used in a sexual context), and half that many s-words. God's name is combined with "d--n," and Jesus' is also abused.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Mixed drinks, wine and champagne are downed at various bars, business parties and at the Gardner family's Thanksgiving meal. At a bar, Beachum finishes one drink and immediately orders another. A scene with Nunally in his hotel room after his wife has left him shows a half-consumed bottle of liquor; his generally disheveled condition implies he's been drinking a lot. At one of Beachum's lowest points, Nikki offers to take him out "to get you completely trashed."
Other Negative Elements
One of the film's main themes is integrity and honesty; and Beachum's failings are used in part to make the point. It's indicated that he threw a case for selfish gain. He paid for college by writing papers for other students. And he's willing to drag his administrative assistant into a morally questionable scheme to convict Crawford. Nunally, meanwhile, lies about being Jennifer's husband when they check into a hotel. And he's so hungry for revenge after her shooting that he's willing to plant a gun and tamper with evidence to secure a conviction against Crawford.
Before assaulting his wife, Crawford describes his bleak perspective on life: "Knowledge is pain; I'm used to that." He also zips aggressively and recklessly through city traffic in his sports car. [Spoiler Warning] After being acquitted for attempted murder, Crawford orders the doctors to pull the plug on his wife. Because we know he's the one who pulled the trigger to begin with, this action reads like a completion of her murder.
Fracture deliberately messes not only with its characters, but with us, too. Obviously, Crawford is a cold-blooded killer who's unwilling to forgive his wife's infidelity. Still ... the filmmakers skillfully align our sympathies with him before he shoots her. We, along with Crawford, watch as his much younger wife indulges in an affair. So when he wreaks his revenge, it doesn't feel quite as morally reprehensible as it should.
That complexity is by design. Director Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War, Frequency) says of him, "Crawford has all kinds of colors. From being a cold sociopath, to a charmer, to a game player, to being funny, to being deadly. ... Ted Crawford could have been a one-note, heartless bad guy, [but actor Anthony Hopkins plays him as] a man with such depth you don't know where it will end, or even if you want to get to the bottom of what's lurking beneath the surface. He's graced with such intelligence and his gifts are so formidable, you can imagine that Ted Crawford is the type of man who would love to have a normal relationship, but just can't do it. ... He's a sad character."
In contrast, Willy Beachum's reckless selfishness initially makes it impossible to like him. As he squares up to the possibility of losing everything, though, that adversity forges genuine character in him. Screenwriter Glenn Gers comments, "This story is about growing up and growing a soul. Willy's a little slick at the beginning, but he has no choice but to mature as he encounters tragedy and real loss. He's a little careless with other people, and he discovers the cost of that carelessness."
Thus, a tangled, chess-like relationship between these two compelling characters drives the story as much as its "where's the twist going to happen?" plotline. The main moral question Fracture asks is a simple one: Will the film's flawed hero, Willy Beachum, make the right decision, even if doing the right thing will cost him everything?
While Beachum does exhibit admirable growth in some areas, a significant moral blind spot remains. Namely, his willingness to jump into bed with Nikki as soon as he possibly can (a choice the film never comments upon). More generally, the film's depictions of a graphic shooting and its use of the f-word further solidify its R rating (though Fracture is arguably more restrained, content-wise, than many R-rated movies these days). In the end, then, this suspenseful and intelligent thriller offers clear-cut positive messages about justice, determination and personal maturity even as it models immoral and unwise behavior in other ways.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Anthony Hopkins as Ted Crawford; Ryan Gosling as Willy Beachum; Rosamund Pike as Nikki Gardner; Billy Burke as Rob Nunally; David Strathairn as Joe Lobruto; Embeth Davidtz as Jennifer Crawford; Bob Gunton as Judge Gardner; Zoe Kazan as Mona
New Line Cinema