"Fracture" a straightforward thriller to savor

Thank heavens — or thank Hollywood — for "Fracture": I was starting to wonder if there was some secret moviemaking rule these days, dictating that all thrillers must be more or less incoherent, with a final resolution apparently determined by drawing straws. (See "Perfect Stranger," if you absolutely must, and you'll get my drift.) Directed by Gregory Hoblit and written by Daniel Pyne, "Fracture" is competent, entertaining and features two fine actors sparking off each other. It's straightforward and nongimmicky (you don't have to wonder whodunit because we're told in the first few minutes), involves a minimum of blood and gore, and holds our interest nicely; proving that these days, a movie can be distinctive by not trying to be distinctive.

Above all, it's fun to watch, thanks to the work of Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling, both playing it loose, light and wicked-smart. Hopkins plays a wealthy fellow named Ted Crawford saddened to learn that his much-younger wife (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair. So he shoots her, right there in their expensive-looking foyer and right before our very eyes. He admits it, to the cops who arrest him: "I suddenly snapped," he says, with just a hint of Hannibal Lecter in the friendly chill of his tone. "I knew it was wrong." And then, to the young district attorney handling his case (Gosling), he says he didn't do it. The evidence evaporates, and the lawyer — who is on the verge of leaving for a ritzy position with a private firm — must scramble to prevent Crawford from getting away with murder.

Gosling and Hopkins swap the roles of cat and mouse, attacking both with relish. Just off his Oscar nomination for "Half Nelson," Gosling invests his character with slick charm; he's ever-grinning, munching jelly beans, and trotting out his little-old-me shtick for his colleagues. It doesn't work on Crawford, who understands presentation: Representing himself in court, he's detached but scrupulously polite. He's got a bomb to drop on the prosecution, and he relishes it, smiling like a cat who just washed down a canary with a nice Chianti.

Hoblit casts the film well, with David Strathairn harrumphing as Gosling's current boss, and Rosamund Pike conveying sexy danger (this woman takes a bite of pie as if she's challenging it on the witness stand) as his new one. "Fracture, " drenched in light so dusty you hope no one's asthmatic, sometimes goes overboard on the noirish atmosphere. No matter; with popcorn, it all goes down just fine.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Movie review3 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Fracture," with Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, Billy Burke, Fiona Shaw. Directed by Gregory Hoblit, from a screenplay by Daniel Pyne.

115 minutes. Rated R for language and some violent content.