Year Released: 2007
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz
(R, 112 min.)
"I must not only punish but punish with impunity." Edgar Allan Poe
The cut and dried case rolls across his desk as a hot shot DA is packing up for the big bucks of corporate law. Little does he realize that this last case will fracture his world as he matches wits with a wily killer who has planned the perfect crime.
Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) is an engineer who can spot the fault lines in a crashed aircraft in the blink of an eye. He also builds Rube Goldberg machines, those complex mechanisms with all the bells and whistles that transport a marble from here to there with about as many endless loops as the IRS directions. But the murder he commits is transparently simple.
“I shot my wife,” he confesses, as he hands over the gun to Detective Rob Nunally (Billy Burke). When the soft-spoken Crawford decides to represent himself in court, even the judge suspects that “he has a fool for a client.” Prosecutor Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling) had planned on a plea bargain, but this case looks so sound that he decides to finish it up, never fearing that it might taint his 97% conviction record.
He’s not even too upset when Crawford’s gun turns out not to be the murder weapon; there is, after all, the airtight confession. And the man doodles in court and asks no questions of the witnesses who place him and only him on the scene for the shooting. But then Crawford stumbles out a sentence that unglues the whole case, and cocky Beachum knows he has underestimated his opponent.
But it is not the case, glued or unglued, that fixes us to the screen. It is the interactions between the two – Crawford’s ruthless revenge all the more menacing as it’s couched in soft-spoken smoothness, Beachum’s growing awareness that he is dealing with a cold blooded killer who is all too obviously enjoying getting away with it. Crawford looks for faults in people just as he does in aircraft, a practice started long ago when his uncle trained him to hold the farm eggs up to the light to look for flaws. Beachum’s is that he is a winner, Crawford taunts, just slightly before he removes that appellation in court for all to see. And then he sends Beachum a cracked eggshell in the mail.
Is it his wounded ego or a sense of justice that makes Beachum beg to remain on the case, risking his cozy corporate future on its outcome? The search for the murder weapon becomes an obsession as do his visits to Crawford’s comatose wife, but perhaps the most surprising of all, is Beachum’s search within himself.
Some hoping for Hannibal Lecter ferocity may be disappointed in Hopkins’ more rounded portrayal of Ted Crawford, who as a cuckolded husband has some motive, if not sympathy, for his crime. Gosling plays Beachum straight on, his record hard won, the stride in his step more confident than cocky, his ambition not as much a character flaw as a way out of bruising law school loans. The turn of his brows or the tilt of his head is not yet the art form practiced so effortlessly by Hopkins, but he holds the screen with his brash honesty and slow awakening passion for the law.
While we do have some twists and turns, they are not of the convoluted nature we have come to expect in so-called thrillers, the kinds that come unraveled in the parking lot. Fracture has a spare, solid plot, with layers of characters revealed as precisely as the next clue, the arch of an eyebrow more transfixing than a high speed car chase, soft-spoken menace as explosive as the pyrotechnic variety.
Anthony Hopkins’ Ted Crawford takes great pleasure in recounting his ability to see flaws in everything and everyone, a trait nurtured in his early days at the family farm, where he was trained to hold the hens’ eggs up to the light to select which were to be sent to market.
I'll bet the younger Crawford wasn’t quite as expert as he claimed, perhaps even dropping a few of the fragile things as he inspected them. And everyone knows what you do with broken eggs, of course. Why you make omelettes, a culinary feat perfected by my favorite Belgium detective, Hercule Poirot.
Here is a recipe even he would approve of, one also pleasing the perfectionist Crawford as well.
Mushroom Omelettes in Port Sauce
- 1 lb. any variety or combination of mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- Flour to Coat Mushrooms
- Enough olive oil to coat a large skillet
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped, or 2 tbsp. bottled, ready-to-use roasted or
- minced garlic.
- Salt and Peer to taste
- 3 tbsp. Port Wine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream (light, nonfat, or regular)
Shake mushrooms in a bag with flour to coat lightly. Heat skillet over medium-high heat and add mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir often for about five minutes. Add the port wine and cook one more minute. Turn off heat and stir in the cream and sour cream. Set aside.
*Enough sauce for 3 or four omelettes
- 2 eggs for each omelette
- Salt and pepper to taste
Beat eggs until the whites and yolks are blended. Heat a small omellete or sauté pan that is coated with oil or butter. Pour in eggs. As they cook over medium heat, lift the ends of the omelette with a pancake turner and tilt the skillet to allow the uncooked egg mixture to run to the bottom. When all is an even consistency, place a few spoonfuls of the mushroom sauce on the bottom half and fold the omellette in half, forming a half-moon shape.
Place on warmed plate and cover with more sauce. Repeat.
Recipe Source: Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook