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Soderbergh's final 'Effects'?

Published February 21. 2013 05:02PM

"Side Effects" is a good crime thriller with a twist that you probably won't see coming.

Jude Law plays Dr. Jonathan Banks, a psychiatrist who is paid as a consultant for a pharmaceutical company that is doing trials with a new drug.

One of his clients, Emily (Rooney Mara), is institutionalized after she negotiates an NGRI plea (Not Guilty For Reasons of Insanity) plea over the death of her husband Martin (Channing Tatum).

Law consults with Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Emily's previous psychiatrist, who may or may not be withholding information from him. Emily's case jeopardizes Martin's marriage with Kayla (Mamie Gummer).

The screenplay in this psychological thriller emphasizes the side effects, hence the movie's title, of pharmaceutical drugs. However, there is a lot more here than what is on the label.

Steven Soderbergh directs in a workmanlike fashion. Soderbergh ("Magic Mike," "Contagion," "Haywire' "Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen," "Traffic," "Erin Brockovich" "Sex, Lies, and Videotape") uses a bland palette of blues and browns, often filming major scenes with the main characters' faces in shadows, as if to imply there are secrets lurking inside.

The screenplay by Scott Z Burns ("The Bourne Ultimatum," "Contagion") has just enough medical jargon to make it convincing and not too much to make it confusing.

There are also some interesting psychology references, such as that to William Styron's "Darkness Visible," whereby depression, it's said, "rolls in like a poisonous fog bank."

There's also some valuable behavioral-health tips: "Past behavior is the best prediction of future behavior."

"Side Effects" has the sense of "Fatal Attraction" meets "Girl, Interrupted." And late in the movie, just when you think the plot line is going one way, it veers in another direction.

Jude Law ("Anna Karenina," "Sherlock Holmes," "Contagion") plays a very somber doctor in a performance that anchors the film. Law communicates well the unraveling of the world of the psychiatrist he plays.

Rooney Mara ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") is a strong and compelling presence as the young wife who seems to have an ever-increasing number of psychological problems. While she has a slight screen presence, not unlike a young Winona Ryder, she is forceful.

Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Ocean's Twelve," "The Legend of Zorro," "Chicago") seems to have enormous fun in what is a scene-chewing role.

Channing Tatum ("Magic Mike" "21 Jump Street," "The Vow," "Haywire," "Dear John") has such a minor role that it's almost as if it's a cameo.

"Side Effects" will have one effect on you. It won't bore you. And it may make you read more carefully the label on that bottle of prescription medicine.

Soderbergh can be depended on for delivering an interesting film. However, even for him, there were side effects to "Side Effects."

Soderbergh claims "Side Effects" will be the last feature film he will direct.

"Side Effects," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian); Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller; Run time: 1 hr., 46 min. Distributed by Di Bonaventura Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Side Effects" was filmed in and around New York City.

Box Office, Feb. 15: It was a good weekend for "A Good Day to Die Hard," opening at No. 1, with $25 million, weekend, and $30.2 million overall, pushing "Identity Thief" to No. 2, $23.4 million, $70.7 million, two weeks; keeping "Safe Haven" opening at No. 3, with $21.4 million, $30.2 million, overall; and "Escape from Planet Earth," opening at No. 4, with $16 million;

5. "Warm Bodies," $9 million, $50.2 million, three weeks; "Beautiful Creatures," $7.4 million, $10 million, opening; 7. "Side Effects," $6.3 million, $19.1 million, two weeks; 8. "Silver Linings Playbook," $6 million, $98.4 million, 14 weeks; 9. "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," $3.4 million, $49.6 million, four weeks; 10. "Zero Dark Thirty," $3.1 million, $88 million, nine weeks

Unreel, Feb.22:

"Snitch," PG-13: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in the action thriller about a father who goes undercover for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in an attempt to free his imprisoned son who was set up in a drug deal.

"Dark Skies," PG-13: A deadly force haunts a suburban family in the sci-fi horror film that stars Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, Email Paul Willistein and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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