Theodore "Ted" Crawford (Anthony Hopkins), a wealthy and resourceful Irish aeronautical engineer in Los Angeles, confirms that his wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is having an affair with police detective Robert Nunally (Billy Burke). Confronting his wife, Crawford shoots her. Police arrive on the scene, Nunally enters the house and convinces Crawford that they should both put down their guns. Crawford confesses he shot his wife. Nunnally notices who the victim is and is enraged, but does not reveal his relationship with her.
Crawford, now in jail, engages in a battle of wits with rising star deputy district attorney William "Willy" Beachum (Ryan Gosling), who considers this an open-and-shut matter and agrees to go to trial immediately. Beachum is busy making preparations for his transition from criminal law to corporate attorney for Wooton & Simms, a well-known law firm, and begins a romantic relationship with his future boss, Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike).
At the trial, Crawford acts as his own attorney, thereby matching up a star prosecutor against a supposedly untrained litigant. Crawford reveals that the arresting officer (Nunally) was having an affair with his wife, assaulted him during his arrest, and was present during his interrogation. Crawford's confession is ruled to be inadmissible as evidence, as it was fruit of the poisonous tree. Beachum discovers that Crawford's handgun was not used to shoot his wife because it had never been fired and did not match the shell casings at the crime scene. As the house was under surveillance the entire time from the shooting to Crawford's arrest, the police are baffled.
Beachum is tempted by Nunally's scheme to plant false evidence to implicate Crawford but decides against it at the last minute. With no new evidence to present to the jury, Beachum is forced to concede the trial, and Crawford is acquitted. The disgraced Nunally commits suicide outside the courtroom.
After the trial, Beachum's future with the prestigious firm is in tatters. However, he also begins to see his job as a D.A. as a means of fighting injustice for those like Crawford's wife. Crawford himself observes this change, joking scathingly that Beachum has "found God". This motivates Beachum to continue searching for evidence almost obsessively. Realizing that Crawford's plan is to dispose of the only eyewitness to the crime, Beachum obtains a court order to keep Jennifer on life support. Beachum arrives at the hospital but is unable to prevent staff turning off Jennifer's life support.
A mix-up of cell phones causes Beachum to realize that both Nunally and Crawford used the same type of gun, a .45 caliber Glock 21. He figures out that before the crime Crawford switched his gun with Nunally's in a hotel room where Jennifer and Nunally secretly met. Crawford shot his wife with Nunally's gun, and then reloaded it. The detective arrived on the scene carrying Crawford's gun, and both Crawford and Nunally laid their weapons down as a preliminary move in hostage negotiations. When Nunally became aware of who the shooting victim was, and tried to revive Jennifer, Crawford switched the guns, retrieving his own unused gun. When Crawford appeared in the room brandishing his gun, Nunally tackles and assaulted him before Crawford's arrest. Nunally unwittingly holstered the murder weapon, letting the unused gun be taken as evidence.
Beachum confronts Crawford with his new evidence. Since she has now died, the bullet lodged in Jennifer's head can now be retrieved and matched with Nunally's gun. Crawford confesses, assuming himself to be protected under the Double Jeopardy Clause. However, Beachum reveals that by allowing his wife to die, Crawford can now be prosecuted for murder, having previously been tried merely for attempted murder. Since he had taken Jennifer off life support, new charges can be filed against Crawford and a new trial can be set. Crawford is arrested by the waiting police.
The film ends with a new trial about to begin, where Beachum prosecutes and Crawford is surrounded by a group of high-priced defense attorneys of Wooton & Simms.Anthony Hopkins as Theodore "Ted" CrawfordRyan Gosling as William "Willy" BeachumDavid Strathairn as District Attorney Joe LobrutoRosamund Pike as Nikki GardnerEmbeth Davidtz as Jennifer CrawfordBilly Burke as Lt. Rob NunallyCliff Curtis as Detective FloresFiona Shaw as Judge RobinsonBob Gunton as Judge Frank GardnerJosh Stamberg as Norman FosterXander Berkeley as Judge MoranZoe Kazan as MonaAlla Korot as Russian translator
Fracture was released on April 20, 2007. It opened in 2,443 theaters in the United States and grossed $3,677,000 on its opening day and $11,014,657 during its opening weekend, ranking No. 2 with a per theater average of $4,508. During its second weekend, it dropped to No. 4 and grossed $6,814,714 – $2,789 per theater average. During its third weekend, it moved up to No. 3 and made $3,696,060 – $1,562 per theater average.
Fracture went on to gross $39,015,018 in the United States and Canada and $52,339,197 overseas. In total, the film grossed $91,354,215 worldwide.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 71% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 173 reviews and an average score of 6.5/10, making the film "Certified Fresh" on the website's rating system. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 68 based on 35 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Peter Rainer of Christian Science Monitor gave the film a positive review, praising both Hopkins and Gosling's performances, noting that "although Hopkins obviously has played a variation on this role before, his Ted is more playfully malevolent than Hannibal Lecter ever was". About the film itself, he stated: "The plot's many complications pretty much all add up, which is a rarity these days for a murder mystery. It's possible that audiences don't even care anymore if a film makes sense as long as it's entertaining". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly also gave the film a positive review, and like Rainer, he praised the performances of Hopkins and Gosling, noting that "the two actors are terrific". He also stated that "Fracture is working on us, playing us, but that's its pleasure. It makes overwrought manipulation seem more than a basic instinct."
Scott Foundas of Village Voice gave the film a positive review, praising Gosling's performance, stating: "Gosling is the kind of actor who makes other actors look lazy. He is Brando at the time of Streetcar, or Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, and altogether one of the more remarkable happenings at the movies today." Claudia Puig of USA Today also gave the film a positive review, praising not only the two leading actors' performances, but also Hoblit's direction, noting that "he also knows how to draw remarkable performances from young actors, with Ed Norton in Primal Fear and Gosling here". She also added about the film that "it's a provocative game that plays out with intelligence and wit." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three stars out of four, calling the film "gruesomely engaging." William Arnold of Seattle Post-Intelligencer also gave the film a positive review, calling the film "better-than-average", and stated: "It's occasionally quite witty, it's able to tell us a great deal about its characters and their back stories in an economic fashion... its plot swings are surprising and compelling." Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club gave the film a "B" rating, and also praised Hopkins and Gosling's performances, stating that "not since Lecter has a role been this well suited to Hopkins, whose intelligence and pristine formality as an actor often make him seem alien—or worse, an incorrigible ham. Gosling is equally good in the less showy role of a righteous prosecutor, investing a stock part with as much droll humor and charisma as he can muster." Justin Chang of Variety magazine also gave the film a positive review and stated that the film is "an absorbing legal thriller that can't help but taste like exquisitely reheated leftovers." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times also positively reviewed Hopkins' and Gosling's performances, writing, "Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Gosling navigate the film’s sleekly burnished surfaces and darkly lighted interiors, its procedural twists and courtroom turns without breaking stride or into a sweat."
Ross Bennett of Empire magazine gave the film three stars out of five and stated that "the two leads are on fine form, but the surrounding structure is too familiar from a thousand other films. Still, tense and occasionally twisty stuff." Wesley Morris of Boston Globe gave the film a mixed review, stating about the film itself and both Hopkins and Gosling: "You needn't actually see Fracture to know that if the charge is acting that winks, these two are guilty." Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat gave the film two and a half stars out of four, stating, "Fracture may be smarter than the majority of movies out there, but it's not half as clever as it thinks it is." Richard Schickel of Time magazine, like Bennett, Morris and Vonder Haar, gave the film a mixed review, and stated: "It renders passion dispassionate and turns murder into a kind of fashion statement, something we observe without really caring about."
Fracture was nominated for two awards, a Teen Choice Award for Ryan Gosling in the "Choice Movie Actor" category, and a World Soundtrack Award for Mychael Danna in the "Film Composer of the Year" category.
Fracture was released on DVD by New Line Home Entertainment on August 14, 2007.. The film was released on DVD–Blu-ray multiformat on June 16, 2009, by Warner Home Video.