"Misconduct" is aptly named in that watching this ludicrous legal thriller inspires dreams of a multi-count indictment. Simultaneously feverish and anemic, the movie is director Shintaro Shimosawa's blatant attempt to cross breed '70s paranoia creepers and '90s erotic noir. What's onscreen, though, struggles to make sense, sometimes from shot to shot, often from spoken line to spoken line.
It starts with a kidnapping, when corrupt pharmaceuticals mogul Arthur Denning (Anthony Hopkins) receives a text message containing an image of his girlfriend, Emily (Malin Akerman), beaten up. When the ransom exchange falls apart, the action shifts a week earlier to introduce us to hotshot, ethically challenged lawyer Ben (Josh Duhamel) and his ignored wife, Charlotte (Alice Eve). Now we re-meet Emily as Ben's ex-girlfriend, imminent homewrecker and source of damaging information on Denning. (Actual Emily dialogue pre-seduction: "Expose what you want." Double meaning!) Suing Denning will make Ben golden in the eyes of senior partner Charles Abrams (Al Pacino), Denning's nemesis. Then someone dies, a terminally ill Korean assassin (Lee Byung-hun) on a motorbike shows up, and Ben is on the run.
Where to begin? That months of lawsuit prep somehow occur in a week? That no one was around to answer every plot development in the script (by Simon Boyes and Adam Mason) with a "How exactly does that work?" That Shimosawa thinks randomly slow-zooming in and out of long shots, and darkening every interior, will remind us of "Parallax View" camera god Gordon Willis? Or that multiple frenzied crescendos of strings and pounding drums — indiscriminately applied to scenes with no real suspense — will evoke Hitchcock? The scene pacing and style choices are so film-school serious that you're more likely to get the church giggles than a case of sweaty palms.
The acting, meanwhile, is its own dissonant strain. For Hopkins and Pacino, this is pure slumming payday, with Sir Anthony's powerful-man autopilot (all stillness, sinister cooing) a bit sturdier than the increasingly-cartoonish Pacino's (bug eyes, crypto-Southern accent). Duhamel and Akerman, meanwhile, gamely pretend they're in a real potboiler. Blank-faced Eve, though, delivers her lines with an almost contemptible deadness. To say everyone plays like they're in separate movies is an understatement.
Did I mention there's a terminally ill Korean assassin on a motorbike?
MPAA rating: R, for language, violence and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Starlight Dos Lagos Stadium 15, Corona. Also on VOD.