Shintaro Shimosawa’s debut production Misconduct has not been billed as a comedy, for this intensely dark thriller has very little association with that genre. Yet it does provide many laughs to the audience, the problem is, however, they’re never actually intentional.
Josh Duhamel plays Ben Cahill, a lawyer who lives a somewhat peaceful existence alongside his compassionate, doting wife Charlotte (Alice Eve) – until his unhinged ex-girlfriend Emily Hynes (Malin Akerman) suggests meeting up for a drink after several years have passed since their messy breakup. While Ben is adamant he won’t cheat on his wife, he is reluctant for this meeting to be a one-off, for he becomes fascinated by the dirt she has on pharmaceutical executive Arthur Denning (Anthony Hopkins). The ambitious lawyer feels this could be his break, and so becomes embroiled in a web of conspiracy, never quite on top of the situation, as it seems that everybody is out to manipulate and blackmail each other.
It’s imperative to have a protagonist who is flawed, and Ben’s imperfections do help in making him more of a human character, but it goes too much in that direction, as he becomes reprehensible and you struggle to root for his cause when damning his decision-making so frequently. It doesn’t help that he persistently, along with all of the other characters within this labyrinthine narrative, acts in ways that simply isn’t in-line with their personality nor sensibilities, and it becomes increasingly more challenging to abide by them and believe in them as the narrative progresses. The story is far too convoluted too, and not in a way that is engaging, with as many holes as you’d find on a golf course, making for such an illusory tale that makes very little sense when you stand back and analyse it.
Duhamel struggles to carry the film too, with not enough presence or charisma to pull off the character. To have a heavily flawed leading role can work if there’s a certain glint in their eyes, but he’s too cold and impossible to invest in. You’d think that with Hopkins on board, and of course Al Pacino starring as Ben’s tyrannical boss Charles Abrams, that from an acting perspective there would be a saving grace of sorts – but you’re left wanting in that regard too, for even actors of that calibre struggle to make this underwhelming endeavour in the slightest bit watchable.