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Fracture Review
Sunday Star-Times, 5 September 2004







(R 18 - contains violence, drug use and offensive language) Jared Turner, Kate Elliott, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Michael Hurst, Liddy Holloway.
Directed by Larry Parr. 107 minutes. Opens Thursday.

One of our finest novelists, Maurice Gee, is having a good run of late. Two new and reasonably good New Zealand films are adaptations of his richly evocative novels. Due for release in October, In My Father's Den is a doozy and Fracture, based on 1988's Crime Story, isn't a bad interpretation either.

The plot reads like something out of a web-of-deceit made-for-TV drama. Brent Rosser (Jared Turner) is a petty thief who shimmies his way into people's homes by posing as a bible salesman.

One day he's caught in the act by wealthy Ulla Peet (Jennifer Ward-Lealand, who affects a great Swedish accent). He panics and pushes her down a staircase, rendering her immobile, before fleeing.

Brent's sister Leanne (Kate Elliott) has got troubles too. A 20-something solo mother, her bubblehead flatmate moves out, leaving Leanne to deal with her oafish boyfriend Danny. Weave in family loyalties, politics, and relationship dynamics, and it gets complicated indeed.

Dealing with the snowball effect of Brent's crime on two families, Fracture is a character-driven film.

Luckily all the characters are compelling and multi-dimensional enough to keep us interested.

But this is not an especially good-looking film. I was once told our Southern hemisphere light contributes to a garish look, which is why so many New Zealand and Australian films can be eyesores. While it's shot in a bland style, this actually seems appropriate to the "TV" feel of the film. It's utterly Wellington, from the spectacular views of Roseneath to the numerous Shihad posters that seem to constantly pop up as motifs.

The performances here are fine. Elliott, who for some reason always looks hot and bothered, does the girl-with-the-weight-of-the-world-on-her-shoulders thing well, while Turner is a little too self-consciously "theatre" at times.

Paul Glover is brilliant as the thuggish Danny, proving he is one of the best character actors in New Zealand. Hopefully he'll get some bigger roles soon.

In Gee's novel, Parr has great foundations for his script and chooses to focus on Leanne as the central character. While all the characters in Fracture are desperate people, it is Leanne's plight as a single mum spurned by her fundamentalist Christian mother (played by a hard-lipped Miranda Harcourt) that is particularly futile.

Part thriller, part social-realist tale, the most engaging thing about Fracture is watching how the intricate story unfolds. One of its strengths is that it is refreshingly unpredictable.

The stakes are constantly raised and the action well-paced, sustaining a good momentum, which is aided by great juxtapositions between scenes to keep the whole affair moving along.

While you have to be in the mood for it, Fracture is a fine, well-delivered yarn that had its beginnings as an even better book.




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