Just once, it would be nice to see Anthony Hopkins rattle his late-period calm, suitable only for playing crazies. Until then, he makes a completely innocuous cuckold in Fracture: a chilly L.A. engineer content to play with his metal models until he blithely offs his wife in the film’s first ten minutes. Ably representing himself on trial (the arresting officer is his wife’s lover, thus rendering the confession inadmissible), he enters into a head-to-head with a young public prosecutor (Half Nelson’s Gosling) whom he likes to call “old sport” and wink at, ominously.
None of this silliness should work half as well as it does. But you find yourself absorbed by Kramer Morgenthau’s voluptuous cinematography and a swooning score that makes this feel like a guilty cousin to daffy ’80s legal thrillers such as Jagged Edge. Best of all is the central showdown, easily the strangest clash of acting styles since mumbling Robert De Niro met Bill Murray in Mad Dog and Glory. Gosling has already become a welcome presence in movies, both intense and loosey-goosey; if anyone can outfox Hannibal it’s him. And who, pray tell, to referee? Only one woman is up to it: The Black Dahlia’s batshit-crazy Fiona Shaw, as a judge riding out the storm. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf