Short takes 

When aeronautical engineer Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) puts a bullet in the brain of his unfaithful wife and then confesses to the crime, it falls to an ambitious deputy D.A. (Ryan Gosling) with one foot already planted in a tony corporate law firm to close the seemingly open-and-shut case.

FRACTURE When aeronautical engineer Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) puts a bullet in the brain of his unfaithful wife and then confesses to the crime, it falls to an ambitious deputy D.A. (Ryan Gosling) with one foot already planted in a tony corporate law firm to close the seemingly open-and-shut case. Only, nothing is quite as simple as it appears in Gregory Hoblit’s enjoyably knotty thriller, which has the good sense to start off where most of its kind end up—with the answer to that tedious riddle: Whodunit? Fracture may not be a great movie, but it hums with the insidious smarts and theatrical flair that made Hoblit’s debut, Primal Fear, a classic of its kind. Like that picture, this one takes a legal procedural that reeks of week-old Law & Order and pulls it off with unexpected zeal by playing up the bassline instead of the melody and by offering us the spectacle of two gifted actors working at the top of their game. Hopkins plays Crawford as a madman fully in possession of his faculties and all the more chilling for it, while Gosling, in his first post-Half Nelson appearance, continues to be one of the more remarkable happenings at the movies today. —Scott Foundas (Opens Friday)

VACANCY Perfectly suited to the shabby delights of the hometown drive-in theaters of yesteryear, director Nimród Antal’s creepy cockroach of a thriller feels less horrifying than it does curiously nostalgic. David (Luke Wilson) and Amy Fox (Kate Beckinsale) are a miserable, bickering couple driving back to L.A. when David’s wrong turns lead them to the Pinewood, an old motel run by Mason (Frank Whaley, working his huge mustache and huger glasses for appropriate slimeball effect). But when David and Amy try to relax in their room, they discover a stack of snuff films that show a series of grisly murders committed in the motel. Once the couple realize Mason intends to make them the stars of his next snuff film, Antal (responsible for the 2005 Hungarian thriller Kontroll) smartly adheres to the no-frills demands of B-movie horror, eliciting impressive chills from old-fashioned suffocating dread rather than the now-usual gore. Meanwhile, Wilson and Beckinsale superbly execute everything that’s required of their characters—namely, yelling and running. At a time when so many genre films go splat because of large budgets or big egos, the small-scale pleasures of Vacancy are a welcome surprise. Happily, the movie is exactly what you think it’s going to be, only better. —Tim Grierson (Opens Friday)

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