With a film that boasts the talents of Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino, you might be mistaken for thinking you were in for a tour de force acting masterclass. The publicity for Misconduct does nothing to dispel this though, with both actors very prominently positioned on the posters. The film is something else entirely with both actors only appearing in a handful of scenes. I suppose a film has to sell itself in any way it can.
Ben (Josh Duhamel) is a young, energetic lawyer who has a knack for winning cases. Part of his drive comes from the fact that he and his wife Charlotte (Alice Eve) are at the tail end of a personal tragedy and are making every effort to put their lives together. Ben meets up with an ex girlfriend who provides him with some information that could take down the head of a pharmacy company (Anthony Hopkins) that is accused of dodgy practices. Rather than looking at why he has been gifted this info he takes it to his law firm and persuades his boss (Al Pacino) to begin a class action lawsuit for the victims of the suspect drug trials.
If you have not previously seen a film like this before, it would probably come across as being quite a good watch. Unfortunately there are few out there that won’t know what to expect. It is one of those thrillers that you know that will drip feed you information and everyone has an agenda. There will be twists. More than one of course. It is way too predictable.
The film reminds me of a Brian De Palma homage to Hitchcock. There are plenty of stylistic choices made in the composition of the shots. This can be to the detriment of the scenes. Several times the dialogue feels stilted because the actors have to wait for the camera to be in position after a sideways tracking shot. It is supposed to raise the tension but it is distracting. To use this once is forgiveable but to go to the next scene and use the exact same technique just pulls you completely out of the drama.
Both Hopkins and Pacino phone in their performances. Neither seems particularly interested in their performances. Hopkins just seems bored. Pacino on the other hand goes into full late period Al mode with his New Orleans accent and wild hair. He is over the top and really chews the scenery whenever we see him. The one scene we see the two together in what should be a tense boardroom meeting feels disjointed and dull.
Josh Duhamel tries his best with what is given to do. He is a likeable and engaging screen presence. What lets the character down is the manner in which he develops and how he interacts with those around him. It is all a bit confused. Ben’s wife (Alice Eve) is even more confusing. When you plot her development and some of the choices she makes it becomes apparent that the character is all over the place. Without giving anything away she makes some odd choices which change how the audience looks at her. It doesn’t feel natural.
The worst sin the film makes is to underestimate the intelligence of the audience. After the final dramatic scene, we are treated to a post script that is at pains to explain every single thing that happened. We did not need to see it.
Overall, a film that gives us nothing new and does so in a very obvious way.