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Fracture Review
New Zealand Herald, 5 September 2004





Herald rating: * * *

To local movie industry watchers, Fracture is the film formerly known as Crime Story.

It was the production which was at the centre of the 2002 collapse of Kahukura Productions which left a pile of headlines--Peter Jackson vs the NZ Film Commission among them--and a mess involving three other features of more modest budget than the reported $2.2 million this one cost.

Its struggle since to make it to our screens, that bad buzz about the film undoubtedly making potential local distributors wary, has meant it arrives on a single Auckland screen just a few weeks ahead of another Maurice Gee novel adaptation, In My Father's Den.

It would be easy to say the financial woes behind Fracture mean the film is a write-off, another one for that dark and forgotten corridor in the Film Commission basement, the Kiwi film hall of shame.

But it's not. It's a mildly captivating saga that captures the city of Wellington and two families' worth of its inhabitants in a fresh cinematic light.

Ultimately, it's flawed by being overburdened by its vast cast, labyrinthine plotting, and need to resolve the plights of all its characters.

But among those roles are some fine performances.

Among the standouts are Australian John Noble (Denethor in Return of the King) as Howard Peet, a hard bastard property developer who started out as a "chippie from Wainui" (even if his accent suggests Wagga Wagga).

He's neatly matched by Liddy Holloway as Gwen, as his unflappable ex-wife and the anchor of the troubled Peet clan.

Kate Elliot, as single mother Leeanne Rosser, carries much of the film with a brittle energy and toughness that contrasts with her physical fragility. It's easy to be impressed by the depth and width of the ensemble--apart from the cast listed above, the minor players include Cliff Curtis and Julian Arahanga as detectives, cameos from Rawiri Paratene as a judge and Nancy Brunning as a doctor and young Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki as Gwen's granddaughter in her second film role since Rain (Attention local actors: If you couldn't get a part in this, fire your agent).

The lives of the Rossers and the Peets are connected through the tragic results of an aggravated burglary committed by Leeanne's older brother Brent.

The results leave him increasingly unhinged and heading towards a desperate act, while his victim, Howard and Gwen's daughter-in-law Ulla (Ward-Lealand) is left paralysed but still able to talk--in one of the film's more curious touches--in her Swedish accent.

Meanwhile, Ulla's estranged husband Athol (Hurst) is looking increasingly tortured about the situation but at least he's not as agonised as his brother Gordon who is about to go to prison for dodgy dealings in his business.

The Rossers are having a tough time of it too, especially with Mum (Harcourt) putting her religious beliefs before her family.

It's a lot to take in and there a few too many scenes which hit jarring notes, especially those involving Leeanne and a menacing flatmate.

It's a film of handsome production values, Fred Renata's cinematography suggests a stifling hot summer and oddly windless Wellington with Victoria Kelly's brooding score adding to the unsettling tone.

It's only writer-director Parr's second turn as a director (after many producer credits). Given his involvement in the Kahukura collapse, it's perhaps remarkable that his film has emerged seemingly unscathed and with a solid vision intact.

But it's also a movie that is less than the sum of its many parts and over it hangs a question that perhaps should been asked and answered at the development stage: Who is it for exactly?

CAST: Kate Elliott, Jared Turner, Tim Lee, Miranda Harcourt, John Noble, Liddy Holloway, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Michael Hurst, Alistair Browning DIRECTOR: Larry Parr
RATING: R13 (drug use, violence, offensive language)
RUNNING TIME: 107 mins



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