FRACTURE — *** — Ryan Gosling, Anthony Hopkins, Rosamund Pike; rated R (violence, profanity, gore, brief sex, vulgarity).

It's a little surprising to see Anthony Hopkins in "Fracture" as a sociopathic character involved in a cat-and-mouse game with law-enforcement officials.

After all, the veteran actor won his Oscar 15 years ago for a similar role in "The Silence of the Lambs" — the charming psychopath Hannibal Lecter (a character he also reprised in two sequels).

Perhaps Hopkins just thought it would be fun to play opposite rising star Ryan Gosling, who plays a prosecutor here. If so, he was correct, because it's the two characters' exchanges that make this predictable legal thriller rewarding.

Gosling is Willy Beachum, laboring in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and looking forward to leaving in just a few days to join a big legal firm. Fortunately, his last prosecutorial case appears to be a slam-dunk: Aerospace engineer Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is accused of shooting his unfaithful spouse, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), who remains hospitalized in a coma. And Ted has confessed to the shooting and is defending himself.

To Willy's surprise, however, Ted manages to get the best of him in court — and it slowly dawns on Willy that Ted is building a case against his wife's lover (Billy Burke), who was the arresting officer.

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This material isn't as clever or tricky as screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Glenn Gers intend it to be. But director Gregory Hoblit is smart enough to give Gosling and Hopkins room to find their characters, and their performances are terrific. (Hoblit performed a similar feat with the 1996 legal thriller "Primal Fear," the first film to showcase Edward Norton's talent.)

While it's the Gosling-Hopkins scenes that really make the film worthwhile, the supporting cast is also good. David Strathairn plays Willy's former boss, Rosamund Pike is his new boss and love interest, Cliff Curtis is an investigator, and Fiona Shaw, Bob Gunton, Xander Berkeley and Joe Spano all show up as judges.

"Fracture" is rated R for brief strong violence (some brawling and a pair of shootings), some strong sexual language (profanity and vulgar references), some brief gore, and a brief, fairly discreet sex scene. Running time: 113 minutes.