FRACTURED is a movie that should not work. It’s something we’ve seen before. But because it is something we’ve seen before we know that it does work. If it didn’t, then Hollywood wouldn’t keep making these types of movies. You know the ones; the movies where the hero is looking for something but the more he pries the more complicated the situation becomes. A good example is BREAKDOWN starring Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan. In Jonathan Mostow’s thriller a husband goes searching for his missing wife after their car breaks down in the middle of the desert, and she is driven by a trucker to a nearby diner to call for roadside assistance.
This time a diner is a hospital and the situation involves stressed-out father Ray Monroe (Sam Worthington) growing increasingly impatient with the nursing staff after his wife, Joanne (Lily Rabe), and daughter, Peri (Lucy Capri), go missing. That’s the set up. The lead up to the trip to the emergency room involves parents squabbling on the drive home after a tense Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws. A stop at a roadside market for a restroom break and sundries takes a drastic turn when Peri injures her arm after a nasty fall at an adjacent construction site. The frantic rush to the hospital for treatment only to be stalled by the minutiae of filling out forms and listening to staff drone on and on about blood types and medical insurance, well, it’s enough to give you headaches.
Hospitals are, by their very nature, places of healing. But they are also creepy as hell. The sterile environments best identified by their achromatic interior paint, worn linoleum, and the overpowering smell of disinfectant to remove an unpleasing stench. They are the places where we are born and, sadly, die. Filmmaker Brad Anderson is no stranger to staging a narrative in the confines of a hospital. His 2001 release SESSION 9 involved asbestos removal workers at an abandoned insane asylum. The mental hospital may have been closed for 15 years, but visiting hours are still open.
Eighteen years after that haunted hospital story, Anderson is back with FRACTURED. The hospital in this tale is open for patients, though its business practices appear sketchy to Ray Monroe. The more he notices the more wary he becomes. The staff is not very attentive to his needs, having to juggle a crowded waiting room on Thanksgiving. Nothing seems right about this hospital and Ray is steadfast in getting his daughter the medical care she needs.
Relief comes in the form of Dr. Berthram (the always dependable Stephen Tobolowsky), seemingly the nicest employee in the entire hospital. He treats her for a broken arm, but also recommends Peri for a CAT scan to insure she didn’t suffer any head trauma. And off Peri goes with mother Joanne to the hospital wing where scans are performed. Ray heads back to the waiting room, ends up dozing off, and wakes up groggy and confused. Asking the receptionist about his family results in quizzical looks and questionable responses. Namely, the hospital has no record of Peri being a patient, and neither she nor Joanne are anywhere to be found.
The sinister plot thickens as Ray suspects the hospital is hiding a secret on the lowest floor. Then again, Ray is also not Father Knows Best. He’s a recovering alcoholic who also sustained a nasty bump on the head trying to rescue Peri as she fell. Ray continues to grow more panicked and confused the more he tries to get to the truth.
Brad Anderson dutifully plays up the film’s mysterious, confusing nature by emphasizing Ray’s thought process. This is a well-worn labyrinth, and Anderson gives us tricks and clues in hopes that the pay off is worth the journey. I don’t think it sticks the landing, but it is hard not to be engrossed with Ray and his search for the truth.
That’s a testament to Sam Worthington, who is usually lumped in with other bland, easily replaceable leading men. As I told a fellow writer, FRACTURED is Worthington’s best role in years. His response, “that’s not saying a whole lot.” While this may be true, Hollywood has to shoulder some of the blame for pushing him to be the next big thing after AVATAR’s success. The actor has not had many roles that allow for strong performances. FRACTURED is a surprising turn for Worthington and it’s great to see him break out for once, even if he’s back to being Jake Sully in AVATAR sequels in the coming years.
Because of Worthington’s performance and character, everyone else draws the short straw and perform as caricatures and little else. Even a psychiatrist who shows up in the third act serves only to dispense psychobabble exposition to provide clarity to Ray as well as the audience.
Despite a lack of supporting character development and its predictable plot line, FRACTURED works because it utilizes all the tricks that make a thriller like this tick. While I had an idea of where the movie was headed, the combination of Anderson’s surefooted direction and Worthington’s performance kept me interested and attentive. The journey may have been better than the destination but that’s okay in the end.
Director: Brad Anderson Cast: Sam Worthington, Lily Rabe, Lucy Capri, Stephen Tobolowsky
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!