MISCONDUCT – Federico Jusid
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
Had Misconduct been made in the 1990s, it would have been one of the most anticipated films of the year, such is its stellar cast and genre. A legal thriller set in the high stakes world of the pharmaceutical industry, it stars Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino as, respectively, a pharma exec and the owner of a law company, who both attempt to manipulate young litigator Josh Duhamel as he prosecutes Hopkins’s company for corruption. Unfortunately the film – which is directed by Japanese-American filmmaker Shintaro Shimosawa, and also stars Alice Eve, Malin Åkerman, and Julia Stiles – has been consigned to the dreaded ‘limited release/video-on-demand simultaneous release’ list where movies go to die, a very undignified fate for two of the greatest screen actors of their generation.
Other than its cast, the one thing that Misconduct has in its favor is its score, by up-and-coming Argentine composer Federico Jusid. Excluding the additional music he wrote for Alberto Iglesias for Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014, this is Jusid’s mainstream Hollywood debut; prior to this the majority of his work has been for film and television in Argentina and Spain, although that does encompass such outstanding scores as El Secreto de sus Ojos, La Cara Oculta, Atraco, La Ignorancia de la Sangre, La Vida Insperada, and Teresa, as well as the TV series Hispania, Gran Reserva, Isabel, and Carlos Rey Emperador. Of those previous works, Misconduct has the most in common with La Cara Oculta and La Vida Insperada, in that it’s a darker, more brooding drama score, and if you fell in love with Jusid’s music from his enormous, lush, religioso TV scores, then the tone of Misconduct may come as something of a surprise. But make no mistake; the level of compositional excellence is just as high here as it is in those fan-pleasing knockouts – it’s simply aiming for a different emotional place.
Describing his approach to the music, Jusid says: “This is a somewhat classical score, in the sense that it’s built on different leitmotifs, each associated with a character or a narrative line of the plot. Whilst the music has a structure mostly melodic and harmonic based – like most old school scores – played mainly by a large string section, there are abundant contemporary sound layers enriching the palette, in an attempt to hear a dialogue between the ‘old and the new’ languages”. In terms of his orchestration, Jusid explains that he “used a large string orchestra, colored with woodwind and brass sections and some bold timpani, playing thematic material. My team did a wonderful job processing them electronically, to enable me to manipulate and blend them into the string texture. The result is that on top of all these electronic sounds you can hear a solo violin playing virtuoso passages with a lot of nerve, accompanying either our impulsive or our conniving characters.”
The end result is a powerful, tumultuous thriller score, filled with richly detailed orchestral passages, and an emotional kick that gets to the heart of the ethical dilemma Josh Duhamel’s character faces. The opening “Overture” is a beauty, filled with ominous basses, explosions of stabbing sound in the strings, elegant piano lines, rumbling timpani hits, and an overall mood of trepidation. A four note motif, similar to James Horner’s famous one, gradually emerges as a recurring idea, announcing itself as a thematic presence that plays a large part in the rest of the score, most notably in cues like “Open the Door,” “Harder,” “Leave No Trace Behind,” and the wonderful “How I Built My Reputation”.
There is a veil of discreet, hidden menace to cues like “What Comes Next Is Our Secret,” “How Far Are You Willing To Go,” “At Least You Are Rich,” and “Act As Normal As Possible,” which strips down the orchestrations to just a handful of instruments, but still manages to weave a shadowy web of mystery and deceit. There is a classical, elegant, strangely seductive feel to many of these pieces, with the undulating piano lines and shimmering string washes casting a powerful spell. Elsewhere, the synth writing in cues like “Take His Head and Put It on the Wall” has a feel of Alexandre Desplat about it, with the heartbeat-like electronic pulses adding an almost subliminal contemporary edge to the classical orchestrations.
Tracks like “It’s Just Us,” “Wanna Go On A Date,” and “There Is No Truth In The Law” are more conventionally romantic, but still have that slightly sinister undercurrent, successfully walking the same fine line that composers like Christopher Young were able to do so well for so long. Some of the piano performances in these cues are superb, waxing rhapsodic as they interweave with the more lush string writing.
The action music, when it comes, is bitter and aggressive, with cues like “Fistfight at the Church,” the second half of “Open the Door,” “Hunting Ben,” the second half of “Desperate Questions,” “Amy’s Chase,” and the conclusive “The Art Gallery” reveling in pulsating Herrmannesque staccato violins and guttural brass clusters. Although, even here, Jusid is able to add layers of intensely interesting orchestration down in the mix: listen to the way he moves around the percussion section in “Fistfight at the Church,” using tubular bells, gongs, and xylophones to add color to the music, or the way he gives “Amy’s Chase” a haunting, epic quality via one of the score’s only uses of a choir. Its touches like this that makes Jusid stand out from so many of his contemporaries.
As I mentioned earlier, if your only exposure to Federico Jusid’s music is through his sensational TV writing for things like Isabel and Carlos Rey Emperador, the score for Misconduct will be surprising, just because it’s so different in tone and texture, and because of the enhanced (but not overwhelming) use of electronics. Although I too love those Spanish TV scores immensely, I think the fact that Jusid is writing music for films like this is enormously important, because it proves he has range, and can craft compelling, interesting scores for films across a wide variety of genres. The fact that Misconduct is this good is just icing on the cake, and although we’re only a quarter of the way through the year, it will take something seriously impressive to top it as the best pure thriller score of 2016.
Buy the Misconduct soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Overture (5:18)
- What Comes Next Is Our Secret (4:18)
- Fistfight at the Church (2:42)
- In Eleven Hours (2:45)
- It’s Just Us (2:12)
- Open the Door (2:34)
- How Far Are You Willing To Go? (2:15)
- Harder! (2:26)
- You Think You Have The Complete Picture, But You Don’t (1:39)
- Take His Head and Put It on the Wall (2:23)
- Wanna Go On A Date? (2:32)
- Leave No Trace Behind (2:33)
- At Least You Are Rich (2:53)
- There Is No Truth In The Law (1:52)
- Hunting Ben (1:25)
- There Is No Right Or Wrong, Only What’s True (1:59)
- Desperate Questions (4:33)
- How I Built My Reputation (3:08)
- I Took Actions With My Own Hands (2:16)
- Act As Normal As Possible (1:00)
- Amy’s Chase (1:38)
- Why Did You Never Mention Emily? (2:06)
- The Art Gallery (0:54)
- Lust (written by Asaf Sagiv, performed by Water Knot) (3:12)
- Head Trip (written and performed by Lee Coombs) (4:27)
Running Time: 65 minutes 13 seconds
Varese Sarabande (2016)
Music composed and conducted Federico Jusid. Orchestrations by Amparo Edo Biol and Vicente Ortiz Gimeno. Recorded and mixed by Anele Onyekwere. Edited by Anele Onyekwere. Album produced by Federico Jusid and Anele Onyekwere.