Fractional opens with psychiatrist John Hackett (Desmond Daly) bound to a chair with duct tape over his mouth. He’s in a darkened room, but there’s just enough light for him to see a table spread of various knifes and surgical tools. Y’know, the usual set up for some torture porn bullshit. Luckily the film is more about the characters and mystery at the heart of the story, rather than gore. The premise is simple and the majority of the movie is just Hackett and his abductor talking to each other. This could easily suck, but the actors are terrific and the mystery is decent enough to keep you engaged for 90 minutes.
So Hackett’s all tied up and starting to panic when in struts David Crowe (Peter O’Toole – not the guy from Phantoms who just died, a different Peter O’Toole). Crowe used to be one of Hackett’s clients and I guess the therapy didn’t take because now he’s a full-blown psycho. He looks kinda like a younger Jigsaw, lanky with short blonde hair. He’s got serious beef with Hackett, but not for the reasons you’d initially think.
Gradually the layers of the mystery are revealed, through flashbacks sometimes, until the climax throws one more twist in your face. It all connects though, and the turns taken by the story aren’t about writer/director Malcolm Deegan trying to prove how clever he is. The story feels really organic, without any implausible plot points thrown in for shock value. The ending is kinda like a Saw thing, with the villain supposedly teaching his victim a lesson about the consequences of being a dickhead.
Both actors deliver the goods. For a guy restrained to a chair for the whole fucking movie, Daly exhibits tremendous range. His performance is all in the face and he pulls it off really well. It’s interesting too because his character goes from one ya wanna sympathize for, to a douche, then back to sympathetic. It’s a nicely done arc that he endures.
This O’Toole guy plays a top-notch creep. He’s restrained and smug, but as the story plays out, he shows a lot of vulnerability too. There’s a moment where he’s talking about someone he loves, and he gets really into it – leaning his head back, closing his eyes, the works. You can tell this guy’s an artist, not just some loon.
Visually and thematically this is some dark territory. Fractional has a solid story backed by some fine acting. Don’t let the torture porn aesthetics turn you off (unless you’re into that kinda shit), this is a psychological thriller that’s definitely worth a watch.