Like many films shot in Manitoba, the Netflix thriller Fractured features a few recognizable Hollywood-certified actors in the leading roles, including Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans), Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day, Silicon Valley) and Lily Rabe (All Good Things, Vice).
Starring Sam Worthington and Lily Rabe
Begins streaming Friday, Oct. 11 on Netflix
★★★1/2 out of five
But the movie’s secret pleasure, at least in these parts, is seeing local actors portraying ambiguous evil.
Worthington is Ray Monroe, whom we see driving across a bleak early-winter prairie arguing with his wife, Joanne (Rabe), in the aftermath of a disagreeable Thanksgiving visit with Joanne’s parents.
Their young daughter, Peri (Lucy Capri), remains oblivious to their hostilities, but she insists on making a rest stop, necessitating a stop at a desolate highway store, where Peri suffers a fall into an adjoining construction site.
Ray rushes the girl to a rural hospital, where the distraught dad, in a bid to prove himself to his disapproving wife, insists on compelling a doctor (Tobolowsky) to care for his daughter, with Joanne accompanying the girl for an MRI.
Since Ray banged his own head in the accident, he returns to the waiting room, where he passes out. Awakening hours later, he tries to track his wife and daughter, only to be told they were never admitted.
Growing increasingly distressed, Ray resorts to desperate measures to prove they’re still in the hospital.
Director Brad Anderson has shot a lot of episodic television (Boardwalk Empire, Fringe), but he made his reputation with a couple of notable thrillers, the haunted asylum chiller Session 9 (2001) and the 2004 Christian Bale film The Machinist (2004).
In that latter movie, Bale (who underwent dramatic weight loss for the role) played an insomniac who starts to doubt his own sanity when he interacts with someone no one else ever seems to see.
Fractured is very much cut from the same cloth. Because Ray has himself suffered a head injury, we’re never quite sure if his quest is legitimate or an invention of his damaged imagination. As the story proceeds, and more is revealed about Ray’s troubled past, we start to suspect the latter.
While the movie is just about as relentlessly bleak as The Machinist, it is undeniably fun to see a host of local actors add to the maddening ambiguity with performances that walk the line between innocent and sinister.
These include Chris Sigurdson as an ER doctor with no discernible bedside manner, Dorothy Carroll and Marina Stephenson Kerr as admitting nurses from hell, and Erik Athavale as another ER doctor whose insinuation puts the struggling alcoholic Ray on edge. ("Sooner or later, everybody falls, right, Dad?")
It may be debatable if the film could be called a paranoid thriller or a horror film, but cinematographer Björn Charpentier’s work definitely puts it in the latter camp. Charpentier wrings every bit of chilling bleak from the frozen prairie setting.
The casting is very good, and that includes Worthington, who stretches with a part that runs far afield of his big-budget heroes.
In films like Terminator Salvation and Clash of the Titans, Worthington battled monsters both mythic and machine.
In Fractured, the refreshing possibility looms that his monster adversary may exist within.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.