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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fracture

My cousin Ted was the perfect one to take with me to see Fracture at the Essex Cinemas. Fracture is a legal drama and Teddy knows a lot about the legal profession. He’s not an attorney, but he’s used lots of their services since he’s basically the black sheep of the family. Can you use that expression now in this post-Imus age of sensitivity? Let’s just call a Spade a Spade and say… wait a minute. Let me rephrase that again. Ummmm. Teddy’s a low-down… no, that would upset the vertically challenged. Let’s just cut to the chase and say he is a crook. That’s the nicest way to put it. He’s spent more time in and out of the Crossbar Hotel than Al Capone so he seemed like he’d be a good resource if I needed advice on whether the actors in Fracture were getting the legalese down pat. I also figured that it might be a bit of a cheap thrill for my cousin since (in case you haven’t been by lately) the Essex Cinemas is in the middle of a complete makeover, and I’ve never known a paint fume he didn’t like to huff.

You should see the theater! It is so beautiful. Gone are the tired off-white walls, refreshed with vibrant Spring green. New carpeting is in the halls and lobby, which also features new slate tiles in the ticket booth area, which has been expanded by the removal of the once-oppressive glass wall that separated the ticket purchasing queue from the lobby itself. Now the room looks like a big, beautiful movie-land cathedral. Manager Dale Chapman tells me new lighting is on the way, the birthday party rooms are being refurbished, the lobby bathrooms updated, and a Re-fill Station is opening up this week so that customers can get their drinks and popcorn refilled from the hallway rather than having to run all the way back into the lobby and stand in line there while their movie is playing. How cool is that?

All this makes going to the movies as much fun as the movies themselves, at least for some of us. I love when people care about the movie-going experience and work to make it more comfortable and appealing. The Chapmans (Dale’s wife Karen is Assistant Manager and a key player in every piece of this renovation) are the kind of people who “get” that going to the movies is more than just seeing the films themselves. It is about the environment ~ the tastes, the smells, the sounds (and by that I mean the movies’ sound system, not people’s inane chatter or the ringing of cell phones during the picture); you know, all the things that make the overall experience a pleasurable one for the viewer. Even for some low-life paint-sniffing con-man like my cousin.

Once I dragged Teddy away from the paint-thinner (apparently much more to his “taste” than the paint itself, I learned, we settled in just in time to see the previews for this Summer’s “iffy” could-be blockbuster Hairspray, featuring John Travolta as an obese singing and dancing housewife named Edna Turnblad. My eyes bled quietly at the sight of Travolta in a girdle and pantyhose while Teddy thought he was hallucinating “some really bad mojo” from the harshest thinner he’d ever hit. His “high” bottomed out quickly enough though when
Fracture finally began.

Teddy was hoping for one of those Ocean’s Twelve or Thirteen types of movies where the con-men get away with their crimes, so he was really unhappy when it was obvious that this was not
going to be the case. Instead, this was the story of young assistant district attorney Willy Beachum (Ryan Gosling; Half Nelson) as he worked to negotiate himself out of the DA’s Office and into a prestigious private practice and the big bucks. Unfortunately for Willy, just as he was skating his way into designer threads and an office fit for Architectural Digest, he was saddled with one final case, a “slam-dunk” as he was assured by DA Joe Lobruto (David Strathairn; Matters of Life and Death). This was an attempted murder case where the accused had confessed verbally and in writing. Okay, thought Beachum, no big deal. Of course if he had checked the credits and seen that the accused was being played by Anthony Hopkins (Bobby), good old Hannibal Lecter himself, he might have realized that nothing is a sure thing or a slam dunk where Hopkins is concerned. He may be playing a character called Ted Crawford (which my cousin found a flattering homage to their “brotherhood”), but this movie might just as easily have been called The Hannibal Lecter Diet or The Vegan Years of Hannibal Lecter because Sir Anthony is essentially playing his signature role without the BBQ sauce and penchant for liver with fava beans and a fine Chianti. He is incredibly bright, articulate, arrogant, and suave. He seems to possess the ability to see ten steps ahead of everyone around him, and his premeditated decision to off his cheating trophy wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz; Junebug) was done with just the outcome he planned from the beginning, even if it may have looked like a failed attempt. The one thing he didn’t count on was the tenacity with which Willy liked to play… and win.

What transpires in and out of the courtroom in the following scenes is shocking and leaves Willy on the losing end of a battle for the first time in his career as the would-be attorney defending himself dances around the supposedly unbeatable Beachum at lightening speed.

From here begins the real battle as the humiliated and humbled Beachum has to figure out how to find Crawford’s weak point, his Fracture, and somehow trap the aerodynamic engineer for his crime even if his confessions and the existing evidence have been ruled inadmissible. Although offered the opportunity to plant incriminating evidence by a cop from the crime scene, Beachum won’t go that far. He wants to beat the evil engineer, but he wants to do so legitimately even if it means putting his own career on the line in his effort to prove his point.

By this time in the movie I had to put duct tape over Teddy’s mouth because he kept trying to shout at the screen to warn Crawford/Lecter/Hopkins. I whispered to him that nobody likes a snitch and Teddy tried to shank me with a shiv he’d made out of a Twizzler, but when that didn’t work, I silenced him for the rest of the picture by threatening to wallpaper his next cell with pictures of Travolta in a foundation garment and that sent him curled up into a fetal position, allowing me to enjoy the last quarter of the movie in peace. Thank God!

Fracture is an entertaining enough piece, but it is not particularly taxing on the brain. I figured out the “answer”, as it were, for how Beachum would trip up the brilliant criminal mind less than halfway through the movie, even before the original trial ended. I’m closer to being a member of Densa than Mensa, so if I could figure it out than I don’t believe for a second that Crawford would be so sloppy, but then maybe off-screen he was huffing paint thinner with Cousin Teddy and not paying enough attention to the script. As for you, you’ll like paying attention to this one in spite of its occasional slips. After all, it’s Lecter Lite, and even if it’s not as “full-flavored” as his other appearances, it’s still pretty darn tasty.

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