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The Light and Dark Side of Murder
Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling

Review by Breanne Boland May 3, 2007 Issue

Fracture, whose writer surely mourned the fact that a movie called A Perfect Murder came out relatively recently, is a very large episode of your favorite lawyer-driven crime show, made cinematic with casting and the careful application of swearing. Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling play cat and mouse, with Gosling as the ambitious young lawyer.

Hopkins’ character shoots his cheating wife, leaving her in a coma. Everything about the case seems cut and dried — bullet casings, a signed confession, an obvious motive, and a closed crime scene with no other suspects. However, as Gosling digs into the case, half-distracted by the shiny new corporate job he just landed, things start falling apart. The murder weapon can’t be found. The man Hopkins’ wife was sleeping with took the confession. Probably these problems would not be so devastating to a case in actual court, but in movie court, Gosling’s would-be slam-dunk case threatens to end his career.

Hopkins menaces his way through this film, inexplicably shifting his desire for consequence-free revenge to a desire to ruin Gosling’s young lawyer. The calculated speeches are more about eggs and flaws and — you guessed it — fractures, rather than about the crying of the lambs, but the steps of the dance are the same.

The first half of the film zips along well enough, carrying the audience along in much the same way a Saturday afternoon Law and Order marathon might, but once all of the details of Hopkins’ plan are revealed, leaving Gosling to pick up the pieces, the film’s momentum disappears almost entirely. Hopkins smirks malevolently once too often, and what started out cashing in on the reputations and expectations of the players comes a little too close to parody, culminating in an ending guaranteed to make anyone in the legal profession laugh through the credits.

Bottom line: good acting mired in a mediocre story

Hot Fuzz
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost

Part of the reason Shaun of the Dead was so great was that it mocked the zombie film whilst simultaneously being a legitimate contribution to the genre. Hot Fuzz walks the same line, mocking big-budget action movies while upholding the necessary conventions. Horror movies lend themselves more easily to self-parody, so the line between serious and silly is shakier this time, but overall the formula works.

Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, an exceptional London police officer whose diligence and flawless record humiliate his coworkers, earning him a transfer to the safest village in Britain. At first, he seems doomed to finish his career watching for minor traffic offenses, but when mysterious and increasingly gruesome deaths begin piling up, Angel is the only person who can ferret out the murderer in the Best Kept Village in Britain.

The jokes are frequent, but never overly broad or obvious. The comedy is consistently smart, showing a reverence for the very material they’re mocking. It helps that Pegg and Frost’s curious little specialty is the depiction of genuine, deep male friendships, the base of so many action-cop-buddy movies.

Hot Fuzz comes out at the perfect time, a nice little aperitif before the summer movie season, which will bear all manner of simple, straightforward explosions and car chases. There have been several cheap, stupid entries into the parody genre in recent months, so it’s reassuring to see that smart comedy still exists — even if it has to come from an ocean away.

Bottom line: smart, respectful comedy

Coming Attractions

May 4
Spider-Man 3: In what may be the last installment of the franchise, all the stops are pulled out — there are two villains, two love interests, and more about the psychological ramifications of being a very public, very well-known superhero.

Lucky You: A beleaguered professional card player (Eric Bana) participates in a high-stakes poker tournament in Las Vegas. However, there’s more at risk than money — Bana hopes to straighten out his problematic life as well. With Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall.

May 11
Georgia Rule: A rebellious daughter (Lindsay Lohan) is sent by her mother (Felicity Huffman) to live with her grandmother (Jane Fonda). Life lessons are learned, similarities are shared, and Lohan tries one more time to live up to her talent before her tabloid-friendly life devours her.

28 Weeks Later: A different director and different characters are involved in this update, set six months after 28 Days Later. The players are generally trustworthy, but rarely does a great sequel do all of its marketing based on, “Remember that? Wasn’t that great? Remember that great poster we had?”

Delta Farce: Many people, when they lay in bed late at night, unable to sleep, contemplate the great mysteries of our time. The existence of God, the meaning of it all, things like that. I wonder how it is that Larry the Cable Guy still makes a living as an entertainer.

More from Breanne Boland

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