Brad Anderson’s latest thriller suffers from a predictable script.
In Brad Anderson’s new film, the biggest obstacle isn’t uncovering the convoluted mystery of what has happened to Ray Monroe (Sam Worthington)’s family when they go missing in a shady hospital following a roadside accident. No, the film’s single greatest problem is realizing that Fractured thinks it is far smarter than it actually is and then wallowing in misery through its predictable plot mechanics for the hour-and-forty-minute runtime.
Things begin promisingly enough as Ray drives passively down the highway with his wife Joanne (Lily Rabe) and young daughter Peri (Lucy Capri). It is quickly revealed that they are driving home from a disastrous Thanksgiving visit with her family that Joanie blames him for ruining. Other cars frequently pass them, honking angrily, but Ray resolutely drives the speed limit, refusing to lose control. He’s tightly wound and pursed-lipped, in stark contrast to Joanne, who is clearly frustrated with his unwillingness to engage emotionally.
This opening sequence is familiar and perfunctory, but it accomplishes what it needs to. There’s enough here to understand what is driving both characters and establish where the conflict in their relationship lies. Key details, including Ray’s status as a recovering alcoholic, the fact that this is his second marriage and that things are rocky, are all quickly and efficiently dispensed. So far, so good.
The family pulls over at a roadside gas station for coffee and batteries. As Joanne hits the bathroom, Peri is lured away from the car and placed in danger between a feral dog and a steep drop into the ditch. Despite Ray’s attempt to save her, both father and daughter go over the edge. Initially, the outlook appears grim, but then Peri wakes up, prompting the family to hastily pack up and drive furiously to a nearby hospital.
Almost immediately, however, there are hints that something nefarious is afoot. Sure enough, Joanne and Peri are soon swallowed up in the bowels of the institution, its procedural regulations, and its uncaring employees, leaving Ray alone and desperate to find them.
The remainder of Fractured is focused on Ray’s increasingly desperate – and frequently illegal – attempts to discover the whereabouts of his missing family. The problem is that the script, from Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever writer Alan B. McElroy, mistakenly believes that it is a paranoid thriller that is filled with twists right up to its surprising final reveal. The sad reality is that there are no surprises in this film, which shows its hand very early on and then proceeds to drag out its story for what feels like an interminable amount of time before delivering exactly what audiences a) have already guessed and b) were dreading.
The reality is that Fractured is predicated on a litany of familiar plot points that even the least perceptive audience member will quickly pick up on. This is disappointing because Anderson is a wholly capable director with quantifiable successes (Session 9 and The Machinist) under his belt. Here, however, his solid workmanlike direction is simply no match for the tired script or Worthington’s charisma vacuum.
The sad reality is that there are no surprises in this film.
This is an issue because Fractured is entirely Worthington’s film. Rabe barely appears and she disappears entirely once they enter the hospital. The only other actor of note is Stephen Tobolowsky, who briefly cameos as a kindly doctor who examines Peri. This leaves everything on Worthington’s shoulder and while the Aussie actor has the generic good looks demanded of a leading male, his screen presence is lacking and his versatility is questionable. This is a challenge not only because Ray is in every scene, but also because Worthington never varies his performance. When his family disappears, Ray is (understandably) aggrieved and upset…and then he continues to be the exact same level of aggrieved and upset for the remainder of the film.
This makes for a tiring viewing experience that only makes the protracted “mystery” ending more frustrating because the lead-up feels never-ending. That the film lacks the courage to deliver on the more outlandish of its two obvious outcomes (both of which, to be clear, are unsatisfactory) only confirms that Fractured is both too restrained and too predictable to entertain.
Ultimately Fractured is more than a disappointment or a missed opportunity; it’s a snooze.
Fractured creeps on to Netflix Friday, Oct 11.