If Side Effects does end up being Steven Soderbergh's final film (as he claims it is), then there will be few examples of a director falling further than he has from first film to last. It's not necessarily his fault that he began his career with the best film he'll ever make (Sex, Lies and Videotape), and in all fairness it's not really his fault that Side Effects is as bad as it ended up being either.

That is because the script is so unrelentingly poor it's difficult to imagine how it could have made even a decent film given all the other elements clicking together. Certainly if it were well cast then the acting could elevate the risibly shoddy material that they're all working with on the page, but sadly only Jude Law remotely comes close to doing that. He tries but Rooney Mara's dull, lifeless performance with quite awful mumbling delivery prevents the bulk of the relationships from even hoping to catch fire. She sucks the life out of the character and everything around her.


Even if she hadn't then the story would still stop Soderbergh in his tracks, because it's just so obvious where it's all going and then doesn't look at the wider themes to make it interesting while that happens. Some of the dialogue would even seem dodgily cheesy in a porn film, and the machinations of how everything unfolds are staggeringly apparant and unconvincing.

What's left is a sheened, empty, soulless exercise with precious little insight into its topic and nothing to compel or engage while the plot limps its way towards its vacant, arctic, austere close. In the late 80s Soderbergh was vital, in the late 90s he was fun and by the late 00s he was being extremely self-indulgent. With this and Magic Mike, he's left the stage with two efforts devoid of any arresting characterisation or content, when those things were what made him so intriguing when he first burst on to it. Nobody really expects him to keep up his "retirement" and it can only be hoped he won't, because this would be an incredibly depressing note to go out on.