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Side Effects' may include drowsiness, confusion

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Thriller tries to do too much

Steven Soderbergh has spent the past twenty years as one of the premier directors Hollywood has to offer. He has directed over 30 films, including award season darlings like 'Traffic' and 'Erin Brockovich' and popcorn fare such as the 'Ocean's' trilogy. He made an action movie with an MMA fighter in the lead, a two-part biopic about Che Guevara and a movie about strippers.

His latest is 'Side Effects,' and according to him, it's also going to be his last.

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo') has a lot on her plate. Her insider trader husband Martin (Channing Tatum, 'Magic Mike') has just gotten out of prison after four years and they're trying to get their life together restarted. The stress leads Emily into a depression a depression for which she seeks treatment.

Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, 'Anna Karenina') and Emily work through a number of anti-depressants, searching for one that will help alleviate her symptoms. But when Dr. Banks prescribes a brand-new drug, Emily suffers side effects that have far-reaching, unexpected and dire consequences.

'Side Effects' is a thriller through Steven Soderbergh's eyes. It's about one man's quest to determine the truth, even if it costs him everything. It's also a shorthand critique of the business practices of the pharmaceutical industry. And it has a plot that takes its time to unfold a plot absolutely jammed with twists, many of which have a bit of a 'Look at what I can do!' quality to them.

As with any prominent and prolific filmmaker, Soderbergh has a distinctive style to his work. His storytelling is precise and well-executed. And 'Side Effects' is a well-made movie; unfortunately, the script's many increasingly convoluted twists and turns derail the film in its final act. Complexity for the sake of complexity is rarely effective, although in Soderbergh's defense, the plot is perfectly understandable despite that complexity. A bit absurd, sure but understandable.

His cast is game. Jude Law has always been a bit hit or miss for me; it's a hit here. He manages to maintain a sense of genuineness throughout even as the plot knots around him. Mara has some strong moments, but her performance is more workmanlike. Still, she's giving it her all. Ditto supporting players Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones ('Broken City'); everybody seems to be invested in the process.

'Side Effects' isn't a bad movie the first hour and change are actually quite good. The film has some wonderful moments of ambiguity and some engaging questions are raised. Unfortunately, the questions never really stop coming, and when Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Burns start piling on, throwing out wave after unnecessary wave of plot twists, the whole thing really comes apart at the seams.

3 out of 5

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