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Misconduct

D: Shintaro Shimasawa / 106m

Cast: Josh Duhamel, Alice Eve, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Malin Akerman, Byung-hun Lee, Julia Stiles, Glen Powell, Marcus Lyle Brown

Released as a Lionsgate Premiere (rough translation: not good enough to be shown in cinemas), Misconduct is an early contender for Worst Movie of 2016. It’s ostensibly a thriller but veers off in so many different directions in an effort to be interesting that in the end it’s just a jumbled mess. There’s not even the germ of a good idea here, the script by Simon Boyes and Adam Mason resorting to cliché after cliché and line after line of awful dialogue in its efforts to appear somehow less than the sum of its parts (or the parts of its sum even).

It’s a movie where everybody is up to no good. Sadly, the audience knows this right from the start, so any “revelations” or twists and turns have the effect of inducing a headache rather than any surprises. The storyline tries to be convoluted in an attempt to mystify anyone unfortunate enough to watch Misconduct, and the basic plot – Hopkins’ pharmaceutical CO is accused of deliberately falsifying bad test results – struggles even to be relevant within the movie’s own structure. Once a badly attached blackmail plot is added to the mix, it gives the movie carte blanche to be as stupid as it wants, a move it takes full advantage of.

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As well as the blackmail plot – instigated by Hopkins’ unbalanced girlfriend (played by Akerman) and involving Duhamel’s ambitious attorney – Misconduct features a dire attempt at adding depth to two of the characters’ lives, Duhamel and his moody, depressed wife Eve, by having them recovering from the loss of a child during pregnancy. Why this subplot is even present is a mystery the movie never answers, along with the presence of Lee as a corporate-sponsored assassin who for some inexplicable reason is dying from some unstated disease (again you have to ask yourself why any of this has been included).

There’s more, but as the movie continues piling absurdity on top of absurdity, the unlucky viewer will find themselves wondering if this is intended more as a parody than a thriller, and will be laughing accordingly, but if it is then no one informed the cast, who struggle through scene after scene with resolutely straight faces and a grim determination to get through it all and reach the end with a degree of integrity still intact. Duhamel is a capable actor, but here he’s as wooden as a fence post and spends most of his screen time looking petulant, or as if there’s a bad smell under his nose (there is, and it’s coming from the script). Matching him for petulance, and using staring off into space a lot as a character trait, Eve gives probably the worst performance of her career so far, as she tries to distance herself from everyone and everything connected with the movie.

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Akerman is a poor femme fatale, her attempt to seduce Duhamel having all the allure of a drunken one-night stand with someone you hope doesn’t give you their number the next morning. As mentioned above, Lee is the assassin who’s close to death, and he sleepwalks through his role making supposedly “deep” comments and trying to appear above it all by refusing to acknowledge that this is one acting gig his agent should be apologising for profusely. And then there’s Stiles, an actress who really should be given better roles than the one she has here, a Kidnap and Response expert who gets to shout at Hopkins a lot and look suitably badass (and that’s basically it).

You get the picture: Misconduct has its fair share of bad performances to match its bad script and wayward direction – Shimasawa, making his first feature, gives an approximation of what a director should be doing – but then there’s Hopkins and Pacino, two Oscar winners now content (like De Niro) to throw away their talent and make terrible movie after terrible movie. Hopkins has the larger amount of screen time, but phones in his performance, and falls back on the kind of aloof, manipulative, all-knowing characterisation he’s played way too often in recent years. When you’ve got Hopkins in a movie and he’s playing a powerful businessman you just know in advance that he’s not going to be putting much effort in, and that’s exactly the case here. Amazingly though, Pacino is worse, his law firm boss coming across as a pale imitation of his role in The Devil’s Advocate (1997). He’s also upstaged by his own hair, which in one scene, looks like the worst comb-back in history. Why either of them took on their roles is the one abiding mystery the movie cannot solve.

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From starting out as a legal thriller – you get the idea the movie might just be about bringing Hopkins’ fraudulent CO to justice, and the hunt for the evidence to prove his negligence – it soon descends into a welter of murder and violence and betrayal on all sides, as the script decides it needs to be more punchy than in its earlier scenes. It leads to one of the movie’s more absurd scenes where Duhamel, having gouged his stomach escaping from the police, buys some glue in a convenience store and uses it to close his wound. And of course, he then runs around as if it had never happened. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

There is an attempt at providing a central murder mystery to keep the audience intrigued, but regular viewers of this kind of movie will spot the culprit from a mile off. But this is in keeping with the movie’s inability to come up with anything new or unpredictable, and again, regular viewers of this kind of star-happy dross will have resigned themselves to the movie’s inevitable outcome(s) long before they reach the end. The makers probably didn’t intend the title Misconduct to be so relevant to its own content and execution, but in one respect they can be applauded: they made sure the movie certainly lived up to it.

Rating: 3/10 – with only its standard, by-the-numbers production effort propping it up in the ratings stakes, Misconduct is a woeful, massively disappointing movie that falls down each and every time it tries to be interesting; with awful dialogue and some truly atrocious performances, it’s a movie that defies explanation as to its existence, and ranks as one of the worst “corporate/legal thrillers” in recent memory.

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