Without the pretentions of David Mamet's OLEANNA, the star power of DISCLOSURE, or the arty cachet of THE CONVICTION, IMPROPER CONDUCT does a slyly intelligent job of couching an anti-harassment message within the thriller format. Featuring a lean screenplay and crisply efficient direction, this study of the permutations of control within an office is both...read more
Without the pretentions of David Mamet's OLEANNA, the star power of DISCLOSURE, or the arty cachet of THE CONVICTION, IMPROPER CONDUCT does a slyly intelligent job of couching an anti-harassment message within the thriller format. Featuring a lean screenplay and crisply efficient
direction, this study of the permutations of control within an office is both stimulating drama and titillating erotica.
Talented commercial artist Ashley (Tahnee Welch) plays by men's rules, and has the audacity to be honest about it. She sleeps around with her male associates unapologetically, but when new LA ad executive Michael (John Laughlin), the son-in-law of the boss, Mr. Frost (Stuart Whitman), tries to
exercise droit de seigneur with Ashley, she files harassment charges. Although her visiting sister Kay (Lee Anne Beaman) and Kay's attorney pal Sam (Steve Bauer) fight eloquently for her, spiteful co-workers dredge up her wild reputation, and Michael forces Ashley's one friendly witness off the
road before he can testify. When the character assassination drives Ashley to drink and leads to her death in a car accident, Kay decides to get even. Though Sam and his private investigator, Bernie (Nia Peeples), warn her of the risks, Kay transforms herself into a seductive gal Friday and nabs
an assistant position from under the nose of more qualified candidates. After satisfying Michael's every whim, Kay invites him to a motel rigged with a video camera. Unable to discredit him through proper legal channels, Kay mails a copy of the motel video to his wife's baby shower and then pops a
cassette onscreen at a business meeting which could make or break the company.
Given the heave-ho by both Mr. Frost and his daughter, Michael heads for Kay's place, revenge on his mind. In the meantime, Bernie has learned that Michael might have disposed of a Manhattan employee who was about to go public with charges against him. Sam arrives in time to subdue the disgraced
Michael, who later shoots himself in the head rather than face prison. Having avenged Ashley, Kay renews her romance with Sam.
This fast-paced, food-for-thought thriller makes few missteps, and is as searing a portrayal of corporate backstabbing as one will find in any American movie. Well written and directed, IMPROPER CONDUCT's greatest strength is the way it lays bare the double standard that penalizes women who
sleep around while celebrating men who do the same thing. If the sight of Kay tarting up to play avenging bimbo seems a tad far-fetched, none of the psychological forces motivating her is implausible.
Rarely has a sexploitation flick managed to have it both ways; IMPROPER CONDUCT criticizes male-dominated power plays while offering viewers a voyeuristic peep at white-collar types abusing their power to deblouse their underlings. The suspense starts during the credits and the issues are mapped
out lucidly and early on, allowing the movie to maintain a steady grip on the audience as it seamlessly blends its two separate stories (Ashley's defeat and Kay's revenge). Although IMPROPER CONDUCT might have benefitted from a little more visual panache, the cast acquits itself admirably in this
cautionary tale about career advancement through sex. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, substance abuse.)
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