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This is a bad movie. I say that from the start because there will be moments while you’re reading this that this sentiment might not be clear. In a film with absurd twists and questionable acting choices and confusingly-motivated characters there are a surprising number of things that stimulated that little patch at the center of my brain that responds with keen interest to something challenging in a film. It wants to be pressed and wants to search for clues and scour details and such, yearns for that moment when the revelations dawns. Misconduct triggered that response in me often, but like an itch impossible to scratch, ended up with me frustrated and numb.
It begins as far too many films do these days with a hook that then sends you back in time to play catch up, in this case, a disagreement of sorts between elder Arthur Denning (Anthony Hopkins), a supremely wealthy pharmaceutical mogul and Emily Hynes (Malin Akerman), a supremely beautiful trophy girlfriend who is unhappy with him for well, it’s not really clear. Maybe because he tells her stop acting like a child, to which she responds by huffing and puffing and storming away.
Actually, I was a little wrong there. The film really begins with a long slow tracking shot off the head of a bugler statue punctuated by a sharp tweak from a full string section that felt like the beginning of an 80s Brian De Palma film. And if you’re curious about what things trigger that mechanism in my brain, this is one of them. Talk about a great start. Or rather credit sequence.
After Emily goes off in a fury, it’s not long after that Arthur gets a text message with a disturbing image of her with a bruised face and a death threat. In come a two-person hostage-negotiation team led by Jane Clemente (Julia Stiles), and after some back and forth, Denning ends up in an art gallery with a duffle bag stuffed with millions where he punches a man in the face, much to everyone’s surprise, considering the man is only the curator.
And then the screen flashes “One Week Earlier” and it’s off to the races of sorts as the story fills in all the details, adding a number of characters and plot points that lead back to the museum, which it turns out is still only at the halfway point and we’ve got another hour to go. The first of these other characters is Ben Cahill (Josh Duhamel), a young but highly-skilled lawyer looking to claw his way up the ranks in the firm. He’s not the most ethically-minded guy, but manages to keep things looking legit.
Still in one week earlier territory, he gets an invite on a social media site to be “friends” with a woman named Emily. Yup, that Emily. Turns out they were a hot couple a while back and she’s looking to rekindle it seems, though there is snag. Ben is married to Charlotte (Alice Eve), however the two aren’t exactly riding a wave of marital bliss after suffering a miscarriage and when Ben meets Emily in a bar, her in a swanky, skin-tight black number that begs for roaming eyes, his fidelity is tested.
And yet, he stays true, even when he goes to her place and she strips to the buff. One thing he does take from her though is information. One of the reasons she invited him up in the first place was to share some insider bits about Denning and now in Ben’s hands, he could build a case to bring down the giant, though not entirely legally. In steps Charles Abrams (Al Pacino), Ben’s boss, a supremely wealthy, well, you get the idea. Oh, and there’s a dying Asian man (Byung-hun Lee) on a motorcycle.
Directed by Shintaro Shimosawa, in his debut, Misconduct is a curious disaster that starts with that opening shot, one that sets a trend throughout the film and becomes nothing more than a labored trick than something significant. Going back to De Palma, his sensational slow tracking shots away from the action always revealed something else important, another thread of the story that we knew was headed for a collision of sorts. Shimosawa pulls away from the action in devastatingly slow tease to reveal … well, nothing but a fade to to the next, and while some of these moments are admittedly gloriously photographed with some great work that build tension, they are empty vessels in the end, pretty to look at but with no value.
Both Pacino and Hopkins are bland, with Hopkins of late seemingly settling into this high-powered bad guy role. Stiles is utterly wasted and Eve is practically catatonic throughout, ending up in a reversal that comes way out of left field. The potential here is great and while the premise has some legs, it crumbles under its own pretense with logic and believability wholly abandoned.
Movie description: Misconduct is a 2016 crime/thriller about a young and eager lawyer attempting to take down a pharmaceutical kingpin, only to become entangled in a web of conspiracy and murder.
Director(s): Shintaro Shimosawa
Actor(s): Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino
Genre: Crime, Thriller