Ryan Gosling ‘Fractures’ Anthony Hopkins in ‘Homicidal Modern’ Mystery

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Rating: 4/5CHICAGOAnthony Hopkins returns with his unparalleled eyes of terror in “Fracture” for a sly brain battle with Ryan Gosling.

Immediately reminiscent of his Hannibal Lecter character from “Silence of the Lambs,” Hopkins seeps deeply into an engineer who specializes in fracture mechanics. Trained to scrutinize aeronautical gremlins and plane debris, he’s an expert in discerning the Achilles’ heel of any system.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Ted Crawford in New Line Cinema’s release of “Fracture”.
Photo courtesy of Sam Emerson and New Line Cinema

The same applies to people, too. While in the film Hopkins feasts on psychoanalyzing and toying with people’s minds, upon reflection he’s swift to point elsewhere for an answer about his character’s motivations.

“I’m not a film scholar. I never analyze the ingredients of a good film,” Hopkins said in the film’s production notes. “I never go into a character’s subtext. Ask the writer for the reasons why someone does something. I just let it emerge.

“[My character] is like Iago (the villain in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’). He’s got cards hidden up his sleeve.”

Roiled with adulterous ire from his wife’s affair, Hopkins plans her unsolvable murder. Upon execution, the scene is described as “homicidal modern” and the story’s twisty nature is set in motion.

Hopkins effortlessly and casually confesses the crime and his perplexing character emerges: sometimes an icy sociopath, sometimes comical, sometimes a charmer, sometimes a game player and ultimately deadly.

“I’ve played two criminals in my life,” Hopkins said, noting that Lecter never blinked his eyes when he spoke. “Hannibal Lecter and this guy. He’s a control freak. He’s fascinated by precision [and] that’s the very flaw in his nature. He likes to toy with people, he likes walking on the edge and he’s a little too smart for his own good.”

While you might feel conflicted between whether you’re seeing Lecter all over again or you’re in awe because it’s hauntingly brilliant, Hopkins and the film’s makers molded pieces of the previous character into a uniquely tailored altered ego.

Rosamund Pike (left) plays Nikki Gardner and Ryan Gosling plays Willy Beachum.
Photo courtesy of Sam Emerson and New Line Cinema

“I’d written a few notes that were very ‘Hannibal Lecter,’” said screenwriter Glenn Gers. “To his credit, Tony’s response was that he’d already done it before and wanted to make this guy different. Tony brought humanity and grace to this character [that] made for more than just a cold, nasty villain.”

Like the concept of Occam’s razor – “all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one” – Hopkins plays his veteran aptitude for nailing the role simply and modestly.

“People make a big deal about acting,” Hopkins said, “but I never treat it like a mathematical formula. The character is an engineer. OK, I’m a smart criminal. They put me in nice clothes and give me an expensive car to drive. OK, I’m a rich criminal. It’s as simple as that.”

No it’s not. The film continues weaving an intricate web into the concepts of law, murder and mental prowess. Gosling plays a high-profile, highly arrogant prosecuting attorney who takes the case because he’s told it’s a done deal. Hopkins decides to represent himself without counsel present.

Serving as a vivid metaphor into the inner chasms of his diabolical mind, the film artistically choreographs the motion of various Rube Goldberg-like kinetic machines throughout his home. These rolling brass balls “accomplish by complex means what seemingly could be done simply”.

Gers penned in the visual as an external sign to show the inner person.

“Tony being Tony – 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 – you can imagine [he] is the type of man who would love to have a normal relationship but just can’t do it,” said director Gregory Hoblit.

Ryan Gosling (left) interviews Anthony Hopkins (right) in “Fracture”.
Photo courtesy of Sam Emerson and New Line Cinema

He continued: “He’s blocked. We find [Hopkins] jammed with a cold, mechanical look at the world and a need to abuse. Even when he shoots his wife – as ruthless a moment as that is – you get the feeling that he’s conflicted and confused. He’s a sad character.”

Hoblit, whose debut film was “Primal Fear,” poured over 100 scripts before consenting to direct “Fracture”. With Hopkins only appearing in six or seven scenes for a total of about 25 minutes, Hoblit carefully utilized each moment.

By contrast, the performance by Hopkins as Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” only consisted of 16 minutes of screen time.

On set, Hopkins is described as painstakingly precise and economical in his takes. He doesn’t waste motion. To cherish Hopkin’s set time, the director used several cameras simultaneously to capture multiple possibilities from every moment.

Born in 1937 in Wales, Hopkins conquered an alcoholic addiction in 1975 and kicked his cigarette habit. He’s a piano virtuoso and accomplished painter who enjoys visiting the U.S., driving across the country and relishing its vastness and his anonymity.

While he became a U.S. citizen in 2000, he is allowed to retain his British knighthood and the title of sir. Hopkins likes to be called “Tony”.

Though dyslexic, he has always had a great knack for memorizing movie scripts. Hopkins reads each film script about 250 times aloud before filming and often commits to memory one new poem a week. He was paid $20 million for his 2002 role in “Red Dragon” and $15 million for his 2001 character in “Hannibal”.

As a tyke, Hopkins was close to his maternal grandfather who for an unknown reason called him “George” while his father called him “Charlie”.

Accredited with a fiendish sense of humor, Hopkins in “Fracture” would rib the film’s crew by yapping like a dog. He then sat innocuously as a production assistant frenetically rummaged around to silence what sounded like an errant pup.

Embeth Davidtz (left) stars as Jennifer Crawford, who is married to Anthony Hopkins.
Photo courtesy of Sam Emerson and New Line Cinema

“He really does sound like a dog,” Gosling asserted. “He’s just one of those people who’s good at everything: he paints, he writes music, he directs and he does great imitations of cats and dogs. He’s a lot funnier than I thought he’d be. He’s just a regular guy.”

Having a seasoned actor like Hopkins challenged by a relative rookie like Gosling was a matter of timing. Gosling says an actor’s rejoinder to any script is deeply circumstantial on their frame of mind at the time they read it.

“I was living in a tent for two months. When I talked to Hoblit from my tent, it definitely sounded interesting,” Gosling snickered. “I honestly wasn’t sure what I could bring to the table. I just knew it was something I should do.

“I liked that I couldn’t figure it out when I first read it and I liked that [Hopkins was in it]. It’s not every day you get to work with one of your heroes.”

Despite an underdeveloped sexual chemistry between Gosling and British siren Rosamund Pike that seems to spring into the bedroom out of nowhere – by far the weakest moment in the film – Gosling stayed squarely fixated on his adversary.

The back-and-forth skirmish often felt like a Pyrrhic victory where one battle was won but the war wasn’t over. Gosling also views his character simply.

“Willy (Gosling) wiggles like a worm on Crawford’s hook,” Gosling said. “He basically tortures Willy and Willy gets caught up in something totally out of his control. There’s no relationship between them from Willy’s perspective. It’s all created by Crawford (Hopkins).”

“The movie is like a chess game,” Hoblit said. “It’s got moves and countermoves and finally a checkmate. Crawford is the chess master who’s thought out every possible move … and Willy is like one of those speed players you see in Central Park. I liked the striking difference between their physiognomies.

“One is grown up and clearly the other is not. Willy goes from being a callow youth to being a man at the end of the day.”

HollywoodChicago.com editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


© 2007 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com

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