Let’s take a look at a couple of movies which deal with medications. Firstly, there’s Misconduct (2016) which shows how the law and big pharmaceutical corporations remain credible in the eyes of the public and the world through manipulation of the law. Then second is Side Effects (2013) which shows the trickle-down effect of how doctors manipulate or are manipulated into giving medications by both corporations and even by patients themselves. Both films show how often that it’s the patients who can suffer – possibly even death – as a side effect, while others are deliberately addicted to medications just to make the corporations and some doctors rich.
Let’s not underestimate how these companies continue to revolutionise medicine and help with the treatment of physical and mental illness. But they are private money-making organisations after all, just like the doctors who deal with them…
In this world of Covid-19 where the pharmaceutical companies are now making a killing with their vaccines, these movies seem to be even more timely. The producers of Side Effects made the scary predictive pandemic movie Contagion (2011). They are relevant especially in a world which has become more mentally disturbed and where the local pharmacy plays an increasing part of our everyday lives. More diagnoses are made every day by doctors who are courted by drug companies who make available new and supposedly better drugs…
The movie Misconduct shows the trickle-down effect of drugs sold by companies in a noir film framework and the lengths corporations will go to deny their crimes. It all comes down to who is really guilty in this movie which starts off with a legal case against a pharmaceutical company which is run by actor Anthony Hopkins (1937-) who seems to run his company with almost Hannibal Lector-like coldness and efficiency. Hopkins is a clever man who can see there is an underworld which he can remain detached but to which he is still inextricably linked.
One of the other stars of Misconduct is Josh Duhamel (1972-) who is an ambitious lawyer out to show that Hopkins knew about the drug his company has produced could possibly have the side effect of death for those who used it. Over 200 died according to the script – or prescription!
Duhamel says about himself: “(I’m) not afraid to explore the imperfections of people. Nobody’s perfect… everybody has secrets. Nobody is good, nobody is bad, it’s all that grey in between.” Is hypocrisy good or bad? Or a grey area?
Misconduct won The Barry L. Bumstead Award at the 37th Golden Raspberry Awards for a movie that cost a lot and lost a lot. It was buried by its distributors Lionsgate, possibly because of its controversial nature and was given a limited release… In fact, it was released in the United Kingdom on six screens and made about 20 pounds sterling per screen. Nobody has really seen the thing but I understand it’s around the place, as its suppressed release also has implications of a conspiracy of manipulation.
The director was Shintaro Shimosawa, who is a Chicago-born writer and producer of Japanese descent and his directorial career seems to have been set back for his veiled criticism of major corporations and their indirect links to the underworld. Shimosawa wrote the scripts for tv shows such as Fear of the Walking Dead (2015-) and has concentrated on producing such films as M.F.A. (2017) which proved to be more successful and controversial as it revealed the talents of Brazilian writer and director Natalia Leite (1984-) with its tale of rape and revenge that is credited for helping kick-start the #MeToo movement. It is also a precursor to Promising Young Woman (2021).
But Shimosawa’s forgotten Misconduct hides some interesting flourishes in terms of the script and it is said in production notes that the director would sometimes improvise some scenes and dialogue. Sure, the film uses Hopkins and its other nominal ‘star’ Al Pacino purely for the exploitation of their marquee names and their performances are hardly award material, but they play the so-called pillars of society, well, if not pillars, then men who help hold up and run the system at a well-oiled profit with a little relish.
Pacino’s law firm takes Duhamel on for the case against Hopkins but it is usually those at the top of the tree who avoid true justice – this is the heart of Misconduct and the manipulation of people who are the lower hanging fruit of society. The victims so to speak.
“I couldn’t believe doctors could betray so many people,” says one person who took the medication with side effects that kill in this movie. Who would have thought?
There is a case of the head of an organisation apparently not knowing what its minions are doing and being almost gleefully unaware as a result… it is about damage control within an organisation as the wheels of justice begin to move and take on Hopkins… It’s good to be the king! Misconduct is also a murder mystery… The mystery of why the patients died is irrelevant as the thriller kicks in and ironically the film adds the kick in the guts that the deaths of these patients will truly be in vain. As is the reality for many a victim facing high powered lawyers.
One critic described Misconduct as part Shakespearian homage about the hubris of being overambitious and doing anything at all cost the get the job done right… a case of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, or was that doing the wrong thing for the right reasons in terms of Duhamel’s ambitious lawyer and his wife.
It all sounds a bit nebulous but Misconduct is essentially a puzzle which links Asian crime gangs, bikies and the Catholic church in passing as a part of its conspiracy… But it’s pharmaceutical drugs which are the evil weapon which kills and makes money in this movie against the nightclub dealers of illegally manufactured pills also sold for profit.
“Like most women, she’s expensive,” says an art dealer to Anthony Hopkin’s character who is suddenly involved with the underworld when his girlfriend goes missing and is held for an apparent ransom of nearly $3 million. The art dealer meant the painting for sale on the wall in an art gallery and gets punched in the face by Hopkins who thinks he’s in on the kidnapping. Hopkins is wearing a signet ring… We’re not quite sure what secrets and connections it holds. And that goes for Hopkins’s links, not cuff links, to the underworld.
If only idealistic yet slightly corrupt lawyer Duhamel hadn’t accepted a friend request from what turns out to be Hopkins’s dodgy and mentally unstable girlfriend… If anyone needed to be medicated in this movie it is her… poor thing.
“It’s not cheating as long as the good guy wins,” says Duhamel, whose history of manipulation gets the ‘right’ decisions although he may be out of his depth when he takes on the big boys led by Hopkins.
Everyone seems to have a plan in Misconduct especially if it is to use sex as a weapon, especially where adultery is involved… It’s just another day on planet Earth and at the office.
“You’ll be exposed,” says Duhamel as he slaps the bare arse of Hopkins’s girlfriend who has emails which reveal Hopkins knew of the possibility the drugs his company made could cause death. Sadly, this girl gets dealt an overdose, possibly self-inflicted… Or was she murdered? Or was it all an accident? Blackmail and intimidation are the order of the day and it seems to be the way of the world and Misconduct shows it all in microcosm…
Our hero should have stayed home with his wife and his expensive bottle of red wine but he takes her to a nightclub instead where he meets what turns out to be a powerful enemy played by South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee (1970-) who rides a motor cycle and kills people with a blade rather like in Black Rain (1989).
Lines like “Nice to see you” sound like “Go to the local pharmacy” … or am I thinking too much? Perhaps I should see my doctor for one of Hopkins’s company’s drug prescriptions? Who can you really trust if even your doctor may or may not be privy to certain side effects!
Yes, the film is really an almost unbelievable connection of events held together by some believable dialogue as the inherent wisdom of staying away from nightclubs where evil lurks amongst the music and the pulsing lights is the order of the day, I mean, night.
“The worst vice is advice,” says Pacino to his new protege Duhamel. And it was the advice to take certain drugs recommended by the local drug dealing pharmaceutical company which echoes down to perhaps even the local street dealer in terms of vice and advice. Is there really any good advice in terms of drugs that are legally prescribed? Ask an addict.
The film moves in different circles, as I have mentioned, and when they do cross it is in the shape of the overdose who “spontaneously developed every mental disorder on the planet” according to the drugs she was taking – or someone was trying to scare her!
“I run a pharmaceutical company, but I didn’t prescribe these,” says Hopkins of his girlfriend’s addictions after she disappears. It is all done by proxy as the deals are done in different worlds or circles. It is that lack of contact between dealer and drug-taker/addict … and the lack of direct guilt. And, again, the question of purity of test results echoes in legal and illegal circles as we think of so-called recreational party drugs which kill our youth at nightclubs for example, or when someone is dealt an overdose or a ‘hot shot’. Hell, the hot shot is even used unofficially in palliative care… to put people out of their misery, or out of society’s misery. But aren’t some patients dealt the same way by their local doctor and dealt a slow acting hot shot or overdose in some form? Read on…
“I have no sympathy,” says company head Hopkins, to Duhamel. And Hopkins continues: “It’s better to go too far than not enough” to get out of a situation and I hear him wonder if we know the meaning of ‘Great Scott’ which is perhaps used as a veiled reference to Shakespeare’s Scottish play and its theme of ambition among so-called great Scottish kings and their ambitions linked to murder.
Hopkins uses the humble advice to all those who are accused and that is to deny everything or don’t let them know a thing. That’s if he knows anything at all? And this is the enigma about the presumption of innocence in the eyes of the law courts.
Misconduct is a throw away thriller in more than one sense in that it was thrown away by its distributors Lionsgate – or buried – after it dared to overdose on its own prescription of corporate lies and game playing and the not necessarily conspiratorial deaths that result. Incidentally, the head of Lionsgate at the time had a medical degree and links to corporations which dealt with energy and defence. But it’s all just pie in the sky like this movie. Like the woman in the painting which results in a signet ring being used as a weapon, this not-too expensive-piece of thriller art – it cost a reported $11 million – throws in many twists in a world where rushed or improper testing on drug products could have unforeseen consequences in the hands of those who prescribe and sell for profit. Misconduct won’t make you question your beliefs except that it shows how crazy people become when they feel they are involved with a conspiracy. Oh, and there’s a gun involved.
The better movie is Side Effects (2013), which has an experienced director in Steven Soderbergh (1963-), who has won an Oscar for Best Director for Traffic (2000) and was responsible for the Ocean’s Trilogy. It also has a fresher and more talented cast in the form of Jude Law (1972-), Rooney Mara (1985-), Channing Tatum (1980-) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969-).
Here we see how the drugs that the uncaring pharmaceutical drug company management depicted in Misconduct are dealt through the doctors to the public and the possible known or ‘unkown’ side effects. This psychological thriller film shows just how powerful psychiatrists can be in determining the fate of an individual in their care, even if it is a family member. They can control or perhaps even kill their patients if they like, or just sentence them to being a zombie. The question being: Why?
“I’m living through chemistry,” says busy psychiatrist Law as he grabs a Red Bull, perhaps one of life’s lesser legal drug vices at his busy hospital practise. He is about to have to work out some problems of his own when he unknowingly prescribes a medicine with certain side effects.
Rooney Mara is a girl who perhaps tries to commit suicide by driving her car into a wall. Or was it a psychotic episode? Or is she really just wanting a prescription? She said she was in therapy previously and “that structure really helps with hopelessness”. If only there were enough doctors and enough money and time to help everyone and not for psychiatrists to just dole out the tablets as Law apparently does. He firmly believes that anti-depressants like Zoloft really “stops the brain from telling you it’s sad”. But it has its side effects and isn’t meant to be taken for long periods of time. As for beta-blockers for anxiety Law tells his wife when he gives her one that “it just makes it easier to be who you are”. No worries love! He seems to have sage answers to every tablet he prescribes as he quotes a psychiatric expert that “depression is an inability to construct a future”.
Zoloft doesn’t suit Mara so Law has another option offered by a colleague recommended by the drug companies. Anyway, this new anti-depressant drug is being pushed by reps of another pharmaceutical company and this one doesn’t lower Mara’s libido, something which her recently released from jail husband played by Tatum responds with: “Whoever makes this drug is going to be f#%king rich!”
There are side effects though such as playing loud music at night, overfilling your milk tumbler and murdering your husband with a kitchen knife… It’s suddenly a thriller and Law is in trouble with the law as an underling who prescribed this medication to the murderer and the company which produced it will not necessarily take the blame.
The question or dilemma for the psychiatrist is that by hooking a patient on a ‘miracle’ medication with side effects and increasing its doses or using and adding even stronger medications… All this rather than talking through possible problems with therapy and a possible resolution of a problem one at a time in terms of neuroses… Law doesn’t prescribe therapy. Are doctors who are seeing increasing numbers of patients which they treat only with scripts just creating a new class of addict to swell their bank account while at the same time they ease their conscience in that they really believe they have done the right thing by just offering a pill? Someone is being fooled and the patient is almost a kind of guinea pig for dosage! I don’t question that medications are necessary, especially in terms of psychosis… just the dosage determined by simply pigeon holing a patient seems ultimately ignorant. Medications for physical maladies and their side effects are perhaps just as contentious but appear to be more regulated. Pain killer addiction being another story.
Can the perceived psychosis of suicidal thoughts be cured by anti-depressants? Or anti-psychotics? Or is it a criminal bent which cannot be cured at all? The movie Side Effects goes into overdrive when it comes to the question of criminality and how it relates to psychiatrists who do not do the right thing. It’s not necessarily Law’s character that is at fault as he is overworked at the expense of his young son and too many patients with too little time as he deals with stress and lies told amongst his peers… Who’s got the time to solve the many problems of just one patient? Thus, he relies on chemicals. It is just that Mara has killed someone and it’s all suddenly very serious – and there may be a conspiracy, which makes even Law suddenly seem silly and perhaps sick in the eyes of those in his industry as he loses his cool and his grooming habits become erratic.
When it comes to anti-depressants and the paranoia of a conspiracy… Stay on your medications while you figure out your future in terms of understanding your depression and illness. Solve it or forget it. You may believe in the Rothschild banking conspiracy or can I jokingly reference the distributor Lionsgate’s burying of the movie Misconduct’s release conspiracy! And how the world is controlled today by corporations just so it keeps them rich!! It’s not healthy thinking by the way. You can perhaps teach yourself to be happy or contented by knowing right from wrong and knowing what is right and wrong for you. A tablet isn’t going to determine that. It certainly isn’t going to make you rich.
As for the psychiatrist as bad guy or dealer of drugs… In Side Effects it’s a female psychiatrist played by Zeta-Jones who is the baddie and she uses sexuality for gain in terms of money and pleasure… Skeletons in the closet. Meanwhile we have Law as the ‘good’ psychiatrist who ends up god player as he sorts the sick from the real criminals who manipulate the system. The question being the definition of ‘good’ – or are patients and doctors made up of that grey area mentioned in Misconduct and are both possibly criminal to an extent? Well, Side Effects says the bad guys aren’t only the patients. Mental patients are told they are bad so they will continue to use the prescribed product without question. Misbehave by saying you’re depressed or whatever and they’ll up the dosage! It sells more tablets. But then some patients are really bad and need to be locked away with very strong doses for long periods of time. Like Mara’s murderous character. Which are you in terms of patient and doctor?
Side Effects won’t have your reaching for your blood pressure medication in terms of thrills but it’s worth a look as a part of this discussion about the ethics of doctors and companies and the lack of public funds to deal in depth with every individual’s differing case of neuroses and resulting mental incapacity. The key is therapy, or at least by giving the individual the key to personal insight and enlightenment. Hence the wisdom contained in the phrase that depression is an inability to construct a future rings true. Personally, the whole debate as a person put on a high dose of medication and left on it till the side effects almost killed me leaves me nauseous as a side effect!! So, I’ll leave this issue to finally rest in peace.
Let me finally mention the documentary The Pharmacist (2020) which is on Netflix. It is the true story of pharmaceutical company manipulation and denial of their product being dangerous which in this case was the painkiller Oxy-Contin. It shows how billions was made by the company which produced it while thousands died of overdoses and prescriptions were filled willy-nilly by corrupt doctors out for a quick buck. It is also a murder mystery solved by a loving father whose son was murdered when a drug deal went wrong. It’s good viewing.