J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Misconduct: The Whole Film is Out of Order

Two profoundly unpopular professions are about to be pitted against each other. It will be arrogant Big Pharma exec versus corner-cutting ambulance chaser. They should also throw in some biased journalists and crooked politicians. Do gold-diggers and assassins count? In any case, there will be scandal and litigation aplenty in Shintaro Shimosawa’s Misconduct (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Arthur Denning is fabulous rich, but he has his hands full. In addition to managing the fallout from a disaster experimental drug trial, his trophy lover Emily Hynes has been kidnapped for ransom. Denning genuinely seems to be interested in getting her back, so he hires a pair of hostage recovery specialists. However, there is something funny about Hynes’ abduction, as we learn when the film rewinds a month or so.

Don’t you just love jumbled in media res openings? In this case, it is especially confused, because it sends decidedly mixed signals with respect to Denning’s character. Apparently, the real protagonist is Ben Cahill, a blow-dried mouthpiece, who has thrown himself into his work instead of properly dealing with his wife’s miscarriage. Cahill will file a class action suit against Denning based on information illegally obtained from his old flame, Emily Hynes. Yes, she is definitely up to something. We soon learn Hynes is planning to fake her own abduction. It is a convoluted scheme that somehow involves a mysterious Korean assassin-enforcer known as “The Account,” which has to be the saddest criminal nickname ever.

Misconduct is an absolute narrative mess, which is too bad, because there are a few workable bits and pieces in there. If Shimosawa had openly invited viewers to sympathize with Denning, much like Freddy Heineken in Kidnapping Mr. Heineken or Kingo Gondo in High and Low, the film might have gotten some place. Julia Stiles’ foul mouthed kidnapping specialist also has potential, but she disappears for most of the film. Instead, we largely have to watch the pseudo-triangle of Josh Duhamel, Alice Eve, and Malin Akerman, three actors who seem to work a lot, but nobody really understands why. At least Akerman helps her case with a wonderfully vampy femme fatale turn as Hynes.

Sir Anthony Hopkins shows flashes of the old brilliance as Denning, but there is only so much he can do with the underwritten, contradictory role. Sadly, Al Pacino continues his slow decline, going down shouting as Cahill’s sleazy senior partner, Charles Abams. International superstar Lee Byung-hun looks utterly bored in his scenes as The Accountant, for good reason. To his credit, Glen Powell brings more dignity than the film deserves as Cahill’s unheeded voice-of-reason office mate, Doug Fields, whereas Duhamel and Eve are so dull and plastic-looking, they sort of make a fitting couple as the Cahills.

Misconduct could have just been a cheesy B-movie. There is plenty of room in the world for another, especially since Akerman gives it some kick. However, screenwriters Simon Boyes & Adam Mason rip-off (and water-down) the twist ending that really launched the legal thriller craze in 1987, pre-Grisham. That’s just lame. Not recommended, Misconduct opens tomorrow (2/5) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

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