Saturday, February 13, 2016

Movie Reviews: Misconduct

directed by Shintaro Shomosawa
This is a passably entertaining movie that ultimately doesn't live up to the promise of the cast. I thought that with Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino I'd be getting something a little more solid but each of these gentlemen turn in graceful but strictly limited performances. They aren't the leads in this film. I wouldn't say they are just there to pick up a check. Even talent that coasts is still talent. But this isn't their film nor do they have many scenes together. This is a noirish legal drama that is less about the law (I don't recall any courtroom scenes though there is a short tense deposition) and more about the pressure to perform that might lead any of us to cut a few ethical corners or look the the other way on semi-legal activity as we try to become more materially successful. Of course there are some people who are claim to be more or less immune to the seduction and allure of more money, greater power and nicer homes so for those folks perhaps this film can serve as an interesting field study into how other people think and live. Misconduct jumps around in time in order to hide some critical narrative information and character motivation. I liked that. I liked that even as the movie concluded you weren't entirely sure who was the bad guy and who was the good guy. I didn't like that about two-thirds of the way thru the movie the writers/director had poorly developed characters doing remarkably stupid things for presumed entertainment value. The tonal clash in the final portion of the movie stunk. It was as if two different movies were grafted together. But the graft didn't take. And the dialogue in the film was nothing to write home about, again, especially near the ending. So your mileage may vary.

Ben (Josh Duhamel) is a hardworking lawyer at a New Orleans law firm. He is somewhat unhappily married to Charlotte (Alice Eve), a beautiful nurse who works just as hard as he does. The couple seems to be disappointed in each other. The primary reason for this is that their work schedules and desire for intimacy rarely coincide. When one wants to get busy the other is late for work. When one has an important personal appointment, the other one has forgotten all about it. And in something of a cliche, Charlotte is still working through her feelings over her recent miscarriage. So the couple has a lot of half-sentences, bitten lips and silent stares. Although Ben is a lawyer who is presumably well paid, he's not making the big bucks like the firm partners such as Hill (Gregory Alan Williams) and Abrams (Pacino). Ben is busting his behind working hundred hour weeks and occasionally cheating to bring in settlements for the firm. But to his bosses he's just an easily replaced drone. When Ben runs across his long lost old flame Emily (Malin Akerman) on social media he's intrigued enough or is it horny enough to arrange to meet her in person. And wouldn't you know it but Emily is the current girlfriend of shady billionaire pharmaceutical company CEO Denning (Hopkins). Emily claims to be very disaffected with her much older paramour. We see her arguing with Denning about something. Emily has a few things she'd like to give to Ben. Her first would be gift is the obvious. But the second is "proof" that Denning initiated, approved and engaged in illegal behavior involving clinical drug trials. This information is gold to a trial attorney. If Ben can use this proof in a court of law he might be able to put himself in a corner office reserved for partners. Ben might even be able to help put Denning behind bars. As Ben didn't go to an Ivy league law school he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He thinks that he has to go above and beyond to impress his bosses, especially Abrams, who uses pens that cost thousands of dollars.

But Ben has to be careful because apparently it matters a great deal legally just how evidence is attained. I guess you can't stand up in court and say my ex stole this evidence and later gave it to me for services joyously rendered. Who knew. I learn something new every day. But even a man like Ben who will cheat and lie in the course of his business might think twice about cheating on his wife. After all, a spouse knows you better than a boss or jury and is better situated to know when you're lying. Before you can say "And Bob's your uncle!" Ben is involved more deeply in all sorts of morally murky behavior.  He starts to wonder who is pulling his strings. Ben is under pressure because his bosses have told him that either he gets a nine figure settlement or that getting fired will be the least of his worries. There's a dapper East Asian man known only as the Accountant (Byung-hun Lee), who is apparently randomly murdering people who know Ben. Emily is kidnapped. Brusque hostage return expert Jane (Julia Stiles) wonders if Denning really wants Emily returned safe and sound. I'm leaving out the trailers for this film as they are needlessly packed with spoilers. This is not a horrible movie. It is not a great movie.  It's something that with a little more skin/sex would have been in constant rotation on Cinemax back in the day. It's fun but is not super memorable. It would have been better off if it had more courtroom drama. The music is the normal sort of overly dramatic stuff you get for these kinds of films. The film is visually very attractive but the writing is just off. I thought that Eve and Akerman might have been better served switching roles in this movie. The last minute plot contrivances are more irritating the more you think about them so it's best you don't and just go with the flow. This is definitely a lazy weekend afternoon sort of film. Don't think too much and the film is decent.
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