Misconduct (2016)

Misconduct (2016)
  • Time: 106 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Shintaro Shimosawa
  • Cast: Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino


When an ambitious young lawyer takes on a big case against a powerful and ruthless executive of a large pharmaceutical company, he soon finds himself involved in a case of blackmail and corruption.


  • Is it ludicrous? That goes without saying. Yet, for all its many faults, Misconduct is also satisfyingly diverting. A throwback to the ’90s erotic noirs that thrived in the wake of Fatal Attraction and reached its peak with Basic Instinct, Misconduct is well-made trash with a solid leading man in Josh Duhamel, two gorgeous Hitchcockian blondes in Malin Akerman and Alice Eve, and a pair of remarkably restrained (for them) turns from Oscar-winning scenery chompers Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins.

    Director Shintaro Shimosawa begins the film with a slashing score that all too obviously recalls Bernard Herrmann’s iconic music for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, arguably the gold standard for stylish sleaze. A blonde shall be stabbed in Misconduct, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Corrupt pharmaceutical billionaire Arthur Denning (Hopkins) finds his professional and personal lives under siege. His alleged cover-up of his drug’s inefficacy has resulted in hundreds of deaths and a civil suit that he’s likely to lose. His younger girlfriend, Emily (Akerman), has just been kidnapped and is being held for a 2.5 million dollar ransom.

    Emily happens to be the ex-girlfriend of Ben Cahill (Duhamel), an ambitious lawyer who is not above doctoring evidence to win his cases. “It’s not cheating if the good guy wins,” he reasons. Ben is going through his own personal crisis – his wife Charlotte’s (Eve) recent miscarriage has caused considerable emotional distance between the formerly happy couple. He deems it harmless to accept an online friend request from former flame Emily, though harmless may not be the most logical conclusion when dealing with a woman who threatened suicide when they broke up a decade ago.

    Emily confides that she has incriminating evidence against Denning, who is also her boss. Ben is intrigued enough to follow her home, where he not only meets her very nosy neighbour but learns that Emily is using an alias in order to escape her older lover’s controlling nature. Overripe dialogue such as “Expose what you want” is exchanged, though it’s wholly unnecessary to signal the steam since Duhamel and Akerman sizzle the second they share a frame. Akerman makes for a fetching femme fatale, and Duhamel does not need to strain to hard to convey the very understandable conflict brewing within Ben as he struggles to even remember his wife’s existence in the face of Emily’s lusty wantonness.

    The slightest tiptoe into temptation – not to mention the realm of rough, animalistic, passionate sex – always spells trouble in this genre. Emily’s kidnapping aside, Ben has to contend with a dead body that won’t remain hidden, a wife whose suspicions are steadily increasing, and pressure from his boss, Charles Abrams (Pacino), to deliver a nine-figure win against Denning. Oh, and there’s also that terminally ill Korean assassin (Byung-hun Lee), who might be under Denning’s employ.

    It’s absolute nonsense and yet the nonsense works, partly because Duhamel’s character is not the usual squeaky-clean lemming who is disproportionately punished for his lapse in judgement. Moreover, Shimosawa anchors and offsets the screenplay’s luridness, lack of nuance, and contrived convolutions with an undeniable visual style, with cinematographer Michael Filmognari’s glissading camerawork effectively generating suspense. A slow zoom on Charlotte as she listens to others questioning her husband’s numerous visits to Emily’s flat crafts tension and engenders sympathy for Charlotte. Shimosawa and Filmognari’s assured skills evoke a palpable sense of dread and malice with far more success than Pacino’s enjoyably lamentable attempt at a New Orleans accent.

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  • In a minimal bright spot, Josh Duhamel holds his own with a couple of acting heavyweights via 2016’s Misconduct (my latest review). Speaking of said heavyweights, well Sir Anthony Hopkins and Al “hoo-ah” Pacino share very little screen time here. This is pretty much Duhamel’s show. I mean Al and Tony are decent but they basically just pick up their paychecks. Hopkins could’ve been in Maniac Cop 4 and not even known the difference (ha-ha).

    The story goes like this: Duhamel plays a low-level attorney named Ben Cahill. Upon receiving some illegal information from an ex-girlfriend (Malin Akerman as Emily Hynes), he decides he’s gonna file a civil suit against a billionaire, pharmaceutical executive named Arthur Denning (Hopkins). Cahill gets the OK from his firm partner in Charles Abrams (Pacino). Straight-ahead plot contrivances aside, in the flick’s opening act, there’s a kidnapping scenario involving Denning’s girlfriend that doesn’t at all fit into Misconduct’s storyline. There’s also a couple of scenes (spoiler) in which Duhamel’s Cahill kills two people and doesn’t even get charged with a crime. Only in Hollywood folks, only in Hollywood.

    Anyway, Misconduct is shot by first time director Shintaro Shimosawa. He keeps the atmospherics dark and fashions a streamlined, trashy soap opera with two accustomed, twist endings (remember Pacino in The Recruit) that translate into 106 minutes. In a Basic Instinct sort of way, he follows his actors/actresses with lots of dolly shots, he lets his proceedings obtain a mild level of paranoia, and he films everything to the backdrop of an almost invisible New Orleans (so that’s where everything took place). People get murdered, stabbed, and beat up while various plot holes flow aplenty. Misconduct is a guilty watch but to a certain degree, it’s a battered “miscalculation”.

    More things to observe in this Lionsgate release: Anthony Hopkins plays a rich guy for the umpteenth time. His character is full of irony, has a sh*t ton of money, and has a hot girlfriend. Al Pacino’s character has a weird accent, runs a lawyer firm, and owns a pen worth $68,000 (I’m not kidding). Cast member Glen Powell like in this year’s Everybody Wants Some!!, talks too fast, talks to much, and is feverishly annoying. Cast member Alive Eve like in this year’s Criminal (she plays Cahill’s dull wife), doesn’t talk enough and looks as though she’s been drugged. Finally, Korean actor Lee Byung-han plays a guy named The Accountant, a sort of fitting name in a film about moola settlements.

    Bottom line: If you’ve seen Fracture (Anthony Hopkins stars in that one too) or 1993’s The Firm, you’ll sort of roll your eyes while viewing Misconduct. It’s not nearly as credible as those films so you can chalk it up to barely being disposable entertainment. Rating: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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