Fracture; Everything's Gone Green

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A thriller called Fracture is exactly what's been needed to banish a winter-long case of movie blues.

It's a terrifically entertaining battle of wits between combatants of equal arrogance. Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Crawford, a structural analyst for the airline industry, and Ryan Gosling is Willy Beachum, a young assistant district attorney. Crawford is arrested for what he thinks is a perfect crime, but Willy thinks his conviction's a foregone conclusion. That's because Crawford has shot his unfaithful wife at point blank range, admitted to having shot her, then signed a confession to that effect. On top of that, the cops have his gun. But either Willy hasn't seen The Silence of the Lambs or he's failed to understand its relevance, since the man Hopkins plays here could pass for a semi-vegan Hannibal Lecter. Crawford is scarily smart, endlessly manipulative and cheerfully perverse, not to mention implacably evil.

In another movie, this resonance might seem exploitive. But Fracture is genuinely smart in its own turn, so it's less a matter of exploitation than a pleasing tribute. And the supporting cast is exceptional too: Rosamund Pike as an alluring lawyer; David Strathairn's district attorney, Billy Burke and Cliff Curtis as detectives and Embeth Davidtz as Crawford's wife, Jennifer.

Fracture is very much a genre film; I don't want to oversell a piece of entertainment as a work of art. But it's an artful film that makes you grateful for genuine favors.

The director, Gregory Hoblit, came to feature films after a distinguished career in TV (on such series as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue); his showmanship and technical facility are impressive, as they were in the underappreciated courtroom thriller Primal Fear, and so is his emotional warmth, as it was in Frequency. The script was written by Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers. At a time when so many feature films seem to have been dashed off by callow kids who'd been hired because they were cheap or obedient, or both, this one flatters its audience with solid carpentry, abundant nuance (an entendre doesn't have to be double to be good), complex characterizations and an ingenious plot that actually parses. At least I think it does. I'm still puzzling over a few last points, but that in itself constitutes high praise. Most genre movies these days fade from thought as soon as they fade from view.

The script for Everything's Gone Green was written by Douglas Coupland, the Canadian novelist who coined the term Generation X in his first novel. This is his first screenplay, and it shows ­ in a cheerfully discursive quality, but also in a reliance on contrivances and dialectic speeches rather than dramatic development and conflict. The film was directed by Paul Fox, and it's set in Vancouver. It follows the erratic progress of an amiable slacker named Ryan, who's pushing 30, and who's played very likably by Paulo Costanzo. The dialectic is simple enough. On one side is Paradise Lost, a world fixated by money and seized by consumerist rapture. On the other is Paradise Screwed, a world of petty schemers and not-so-petty swindlers. In the middle is likable Ryan, trying to make his way toward a state of grace, but drawn into a borderline-swindle that depends on his odd job with the Provincial Lottery.

The movie is least successful during literal-minded debates about who's corrupt and who isn't. But Everything's Gone Green is very enjoyable when Ryan spends quiet time with Ming, a lovely Chinese-Canadian set decorator played by Steph Song. He's slow to know it, but she's Paradise Found.