Movie Review: "Misconduct" (2016)

Today, February 5th, Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins are appearing in a new film, “Misconduct.” Also appearing are Josh Duhamel, Alice Eve, Malin Akerman, and Julia Stiles. A limited theatrical release, it’s also available on demand starting today.

Not to put the cart before the horse, I recommend you skip it.

“Misconduct” is the tale of one lawyer, Ben Cahill (Duhamel), who is pursuing a case against a pharmaceutical executive, Charles Abrams (Hopkins), and Abrams’ company. Cahill isn’t exactly pursuing the case in entirely ethical fashion, but, he’s doing it to make life better for himself and his wife, Charlotte (Eve). You see, they don’t have very much money despite Cahill’s being an associate at what very much appears to be a white shoe law firm. Certainly, the firm’s senior partner, Arthur Denning (Pacino), has a fortune and the offices of the firm are full of the pomp one associates with a high profile firm.

So… why don’t the Cahills have any money? That is not really discussed. Perhaps they do (one figures that working for such a firm Cahill easily clears six figures annually, plus a bonus), but the movie isn’t concerned with that.

Actually, if I’m being honest (and I pride myself upon such things even when watching a movie about some very dishonest people), “Misconduct” isn’t concerned with very much at all. At least, it isn’t concerned with much beyond setting a mood and offering tons of twists and turns.

Okay, that’s a couple hundred whirlwind words setting up the film as not being very good. But, let’s take deep breath and explore it a little more.

Directed by Shintaro Shimosawa from a script by Simon Boyes & Adam Mason, “Misconduct” shows Cahill working his case and lying to his wife about meeting an ex-girlfriend, Emily Hynes (Akerman), who (not by coincidence) works for Abrams’ company. The start of the case is actually shown in flashback after Hynes has been kidnapped for reasons unknown and as much as “Misconduct” is about the legal case it is also about the Hynes-Cahill relationship and the kidnapping.

It is not unreasonable to say that if Cahill didn’t make the decision very early on to lie to his wife about seeing Hynes—a lie told for no reason anyone in the real world would actually believe—the movie wouldn’t exist. But, there is no reason for the lie to exist other than to make the movie happen. It is an illogical moment in a movie filled with illogical moments.

Just one more illogical moment and I’ll move on… At one point early in the film, Julia Stiles’ security officer, Jane Clemente, is watching over Abrams’ delivering a ransom for Hynes at an art show. This is all supposed to be quite a secret, hush-hush transfer. Clemente even has one of those clever microphones that can attach to your sleeves, like the Secret Service use as a not terribly secretive way of talking to other. Clemente though, despite trying to disguise herself at the art show, has the microphone in her hand and just talks right into it. No Bluetooth for her, even though someone talking on a phone via Bluetooth is de rigueur. No, she is holding a Secret Service-style microphone, letting everyone know she’s on a mission and completely blowing her cover. Except, no one at the art show catches this because “Misconduct” doesn’t care for it to be caught.

“Misconduct” is all about setting a mood and then not doing anything via the plot to compliment it. So, we get a dark, murky, palette and an overwrought score to highlight the dark, murky, morally ambiguous tale. Or, what ought to be a dark, morally ambiguous tale but is instead a series of nonsensical twists placed on top of series of illogical actions.

The movie obviously has assembled a good cast, but first time director Shimosawa doesn’t have anything terribly worthwhile for them to do. “Misconduct” is, in short, another movie that appears more interested in creating twists and turns than it is in creating a place from which the movie can twist and turn.



photo credit: Lionsgate Premiere

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