Scorpion Releasing // 1994 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // July 12th, 2013
I'm doing what I have to do.
In the early 1990s, sexual harassment became the issue du jour. From soon to be Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to presidential candidate Gary Hart to President Bill Clinton to countless sleazebag office managers enjoying their power, it was headline news back then. It wasn't new by any means, but the media treated it like it was. The movies that came out representing the issue, though, serious as it may be, are almost universally terrible and completely trivialize it, from unseemly big budget gems like Disclosure to this pile of garbage, Improper Conduct, the unholy melding of issue-based thriller and Cinemax After Dark.
Ashley (Tahnee Welch, Cocoon) is a low level office worker at a big nameless company. She has only made a name there as a result of her dating several of her coworkers over the time she's worked there, leading her boss (John Laughlin, The Rock) to believe he might have a shot. He forces himself on her and, disgusted, Ashley quits and files a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Nefarious dealings and character assassinations mean he gets off scot free and, devastated, Ashley gets really drunk and crashes her car, dying in the process. Her sister (Lee Anne Beaman) vows revenge on the man, taking a job at the firm to seduce and secure his lust, trapping him in his own disgusting game.
Given that Improper Conduct was released in 1994, I would guess that it was conceived in 1991 or 1992, right around the time that the Bill Clinton and Paula Jones scandal hit the headlines. It's only a guess, but it seems very likely that writer and director Jag Mundhra (Shades of Gray) decided to get topical and write a story that would show the horror of sexual harassment. That isn't a bad idea necessarily, but the result is one of the worst movies you're going to find.
On the one hand, it's outrageously ham-handed; on the other, insanely boring. A fair portion of the film is a courtroom drama, torn from the pages that the worst television would laugh at, while the rest is a sorry attempt at cable level eroticism. When the sex is the dullest part of the movie, you really have a problem, especially when the obvious story and sad performances are this bad. Worthless in every way, its only value is in the absurdity of the idea that the sister of the dead woman would suddenly turn slutty so she can ruin the boss. If there's anything that says shoddy writing, it's that. It's not much value, of course, but if I have to spend ninety minutes within this awful world, I want to take something away, so I suppose that's it.
Improper Conduct comes to DVD from Scorpion Releasing in a release that is definitely not up to the label's usual standards. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image looks basically terrible, more like a digital VHS transfer than a real digital image. Blocky, with inconsistent colors and plenty of digital errors, there's little good to say about it. The stereo sound mix is a little better, but with low dynamic range and merely acceptable dialogue, it's nothing to write home about, either.
There are no circumstances under which I can recommend Improper Conduct. If you're looking for a decent thriller, this is the farthest thing from it. If you're looking for Cinemax-style erotica, there's far weirder and far better entries that are easily accessible. The only way I can see watching this bit of trash is if, somehow, you're a huge fan of Nia Peeples (Walker, Texas Ranger), who appears in a miniscule and insignificant role, but even then, press play at your own risk.
Awful and so, so guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R