Sherlock Holmes - Movie Review
By Ron Wilkinson Jan 1, 2010, 9:05 GMT
Based on the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ...more
Guy Ritchie hit the big time with this flick but there is too much of the gangs of London and too little of the rumpled professor in the character of the famous detective
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law go where too many men have gone before, into late 1800’s London and the world of Sherlock Holmes. Rachel McAdams plays the double-crossing moll with beautiful smile and the heart of gold and Mark Strong provides the heavy lifting as arch-villain Lord Blackwood. If you like that villainous name, Lord Blackwood, you will love the rest of this film because that’s about as creative as it gets. The confounding genius and impossibly obvious conclusions are largely replaced with chemical mumbo-jumbo that wouldn’t pass muster in a ninth grade science class and martial arts moves that were used a hundred times before in films from Mumbai to Phuket.
Make no mistake, this is one splashy flick. There are strokes of genius in the computer-generated backgrounds of those romantic and adventuresome years in foamy London. The two or three glimpses of the Thames, filthy dirty in the foggy mists, are almost worth the price of admission all by themselves. The audience is on the edges of their seat just to get the next glimpse of London during the fabled periods of early industrialization.
Twice Oscar nominated Robert Downey Jr. plays detective Holmes with more than a hint of either brainy distractedness or cocaine induced early onset Alzheimer’s. The result is a good-natured put-on of the hyper-observant genius. The problem is the bare fisted fighting and kung-fu moves against anything from super-human monsters to gun toting mobsters. Director Richie has simply pushed the envelope a bit too far. Even worse, once the envelope is pushed too far, he keeps pushing it further.
The great graphics extend to two or three good action sequences. The one sequence in the shipbuilding yard is truly remarkable. It is historically accurate; it puts Holmes in harm’s way beneath a huge ship and features the most terrifying flying chains and cast iron machinery. Detailed, accurate and legitimately terrifying, this scene is the only one of its kind in the film. The closing sequence of the fight scene on the crumbling bridge over the Thames is the most predictable set of phony fight moves shown in any film this year.
Oscar nominated Jude Law plays Dr. John Watson and law actually gets some of the best lines. This film desperately needs more scenes such as when he is strangling the giant with a cord and coolly advises, “Relax, I am a doctor, you know.” Unfortunately, these James Bondisms are rare. Holmes and Watson take on a more equal footing than we are used to from the books and past films. In past works they are depicted like kindly all-knowing father and smart but imperceptive scientist son and this positioning lent warmth to their details. In this film they are more like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid shooting their way through legions of inept, heavily armed hooligans.
Canadian star Rachel McAdams does a good job with the part of the sultry street smart Irene. Irene is a double agent, seducing Watson and Holmes with her seductive smarts while working both ends against the middle. In other words her part was tired out and overused several decades ago when the last of the films noir coughed, gasped and expired in front of the lens. Her acting is fine and her demeanor, costumes and makeup are prefect. She fits right in on the sooty pox infested alleys of London and when her back alley kiss turns into a sucker punch for some unlucky lout we are glad she did it.
The problem is we are so busy trying to keep track of Sherlock’s pretzel logic that we have little brain power left for the final things in life such as Irene.
Filling out the bill is the redoubtable Eddie Marsan as closet Holmes idolizer Inspector Lestrade. Marsan may be the best actor in this entire film but his talents are well hidden behind the mumbo-jumbo. If you like what you see, check him out in “Vera Drake,” the “Red Riding Hood” crime trilogy and then switch to his role as the hilarious driving instructor in “Happy Go-Lucky.”
Guy Richie has a fervent following for his madcap, neo-realist indie-action super flicks “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” but this film may be a case of someone giving him enough rope to finally hang himself.
Release: December 25, 2009
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material
Runtime: 128 minutes
Country: UK / Australia / USA