Two 1/2 Stars
Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, Rosamund Pike
Directed by Gregory Hoblit
The oh-so-unassumingly named Ted Crawford (Hopkins), villain extraordinaire of the psychological thriller Fracture, has as his hobby the building of intricate contraptions of sleek metal, twisty courses on which he sets glass marbles and watches as they roll back and forth, zigzagging through loops and pulleys on a circuitous, predetermined course.
It’s meant to represent the methodical way that he manipulates both the legal system and arrogant young prosecutor Willy Beachum (Gosling) after being arrested for the attempted murder of his wife (she ends up in a coma), but it could just as well represent the movie itself, which hums along at a steady clip navigating narrative twists and turns that may be complex but seem wholly predetermined and inorganic. At the same time, that glass marble does look rather pretty and makes a satisfying sound as it winds around the course, and likewise the movie has its own intermittent pleasures.
For Hopkins fans, chief among those pleasures will be getting to see the actor essentially reprise his Hannibal Lecter role, suavely toying with his enemies while winking and smirking. The problem is that the movie takes the Lecter factor too far, and Crawford becomes such an accomplished evil mastermind (at least for most of the film) that he might as well be omnipotent. You might want to root for him simply because of Hopkins’ charm, but that’s not what the movie’s going for, really, and Gosling has a tough time picking up the slack and making Beachum a worthwhile protagonist.
Ultimately both main characters are so smug and arrogant that neither is much worth investing in, and Gosling’s various actorly tics don’t quite make Beachum more than the cocksure young lawyer who wants to get out of the DA’s office and into a cushy corporate job. Hoblit is an experienced director of smart thrillers (Primal Fear, Fallen) with an elegant style, and he keeps things moving as smoothly as that marble. When it gets to its destination, though, you realize there wasn’t much to the journey after all.