Jude Law

Side Effects (2013)

Graphic Designer Emily (Rooney Mara) begins to emotionally unravel just after her husband (Channing Tatum) is released from prison for insider trading. After a failed suicide attempt, she is taken under the wing of psychiatrist, Jonathan Banks who puts her on a prescription of new wünderdrug, Ablixa; an experimental drug Banks is paid to promote on behalf of the pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately, the drug takes an unfortunate hold of Emily and before long, Banks finds himself on a downward spiral.

And that’s about as much as we can tell you.

Like some of the best thrillers in life, the less you know about Side Effects going in, the better the experience. Steven Soderbergh’s directorial departure seems to start off as a criticism of the drug dependent lifestyle that’s peddled out daily in America by THE MAN and the inherent nature we all have to feed off other’s pain to justify not overcoming our own. Everyone Emily meets has their tale of woe and their chemical of choice to overcome it. Whilst Emily breaks apart, the rest of the world feels empathy but with the desire to let their woes be made vocal as well. Everyone is together but they are alone. However, before you know it Soderbergh changes gears and  it all starts getting as twisty turny as a mix-up in a pretzel factory. It’s not without saying that when this happens, to paraphrase The Matrix, you’ll find yourself reaching for the red or blue pill. You can accept what’s happening and enjoy the ride or you can run out screaming for a sequel to Magic Mike.

We had a blast. Soderbergh clearly relished making this film as it bounces around defying genre types and audience expectations. This may not be the film you expected Soderbergh to make, but when does he do the expected?

Unfortunately, you have to take the rough with the smooth. In this instance, the rough comes in the form of rival psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert played with mahogany splendor by Catherine Zeta Jones. We still struggle to this day to understand how Zeta Jones keeps getting work and Side Effects doesn’t help matters. Adopting an awful American accent, Zeta Jones pouts and attempts to simmer at every given opportunity. Her relationship with Law is so intricate to the plot, we just wish they’d held out for someone better.

Still, this is just a drop of ink in the ocean. Side Effects is a compelling thriller that will keep you guessing up until the end. It’s also at times, a tribute to the thrillers of the past such as The Third Man and Vertigo. Take it once in the evening with a glass of water and see us in the morning.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Guy Ritchie’s original movie, Sherlock Holmes, was greeted by many a bemused person who felt that he had lynched the good name of Arthur Conan Doyle by giving us a bohemian Holmes who was an ace shot, a crack swordsman and a bare-knuckle fighter. These same people having based their opinion of Holmes solely on Basil Rathbone movies. However, it was successful  and deliberately left itself open to a sequel. Here is that sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jnr) is spending an inordinate amount of time trying to track down evidence that can lead to the arrest and capture of Professor Moriarty, lecturer, author and criminal mastermind. Upon meeting a fortune teller named Simzi (Noomi Rapace), Holmes begins a case that could lead not only to Moriarty, but also to saving civilisation as we know it. Not bad for a man who has taken to drinking formaldehyde.

Seemingly learning from criticisms of the last installment, Game of Shadows dispenses with the overly-complicated plot and, taking it’s cues from The Final Problem, becomes a merry chase across Europe.  Whilst I’m a big fan of the original, I was pleased to see the plot simplified as the original does fall down like a game of ker-plunk if you analyse it too closely. The sequel is not without it’s fault, an attempt to cover up a murder is is presented as ingenious, when in actual fact it seems like a colossal waste of manpower.

Downey Jnr and Jude Law, as Dr Watson, bounce off each other superbly, retaining the love/hate married couple relationship that made them a joy to watch before. Jared Hill is superb as Moriarty and, in comparison to Lord Blackwood from before, brings a believable villainy to role without having to chew the scenery. His dialogues with Holmes are excellent and you genuinely believe them to be two men who share awe and loathing of each other in equal measure. It’s a shame about Noomi Rapace then. Forever to be known as that woman from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Played with Fire/Punched a Train, Rapace becomes nothing more than window dressing and, at best, the Holmes equivalent of a Doctor Who companion. ‘What’s this Holmes?’, ‘Why that Holmes?’, ‘Look it’s the Ice Warriors, Holmes!’ etc.

Some of Guy Ritchie’s direction does grate a little. There are so many Lock, Stock moments of quick cuts it can become a tad disorientating. His overusage of slooooooooooooowing thiiiiings dooooooown before speedingupreallyquickly does become a bit of a headache, but it’s nice to see a cheeky nod to the almost infallible Holmes-O-Vision we were introduced to in Sherlock Holmes.

After the swashbuckling finale of it’s predecessor, some fans maybe disappointed with the wordy way everything is resolved in Game of Shadows. The film quite literally waves an ending in your face, before changing gears suddenly. However, I found it to be more line in with the original stories than crossing swords on top of an incomplete Tower Bridge.

A Game of Shadows will most definitely split people down the middle. It is not a film to tax your braincells, but rather a ripping yarn. Which isn’t really all that different to Holmes canon in general if truth be told.