Sherlock Holmes Review (2009) Review (PG-13)
I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s version of Sherlock Holmes. It doesn’t focus on the aspects of mystery; they cheat a bit on that. Holmes hypothesizes and gives explanations about mysteries that the audience is never really allowed to participate in. Ritchie’s Holmes uses his fists to solve crimes as much as his wits. This is not the frail Basil Rathbone Holmes’. A lot of the mythos is there (the Baker Street residence, the pipe, catchphrases, a possible appearance by a certain Holmes villain) , but with Robert Downy Jr. adding a raw physicality to the role as well as his somewhat intelletually spasmadic delivery.
Downey Jr. seems to seek out roles that have characters with some sort of chemical dependency (A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, Iron Man) and this one is no different. This Holmes is fond of drink and heavier drug use is alluded to. But, not in a ‘downer’ sort of way.
He also gets bored easy and takes to underground arena fights between cases. Ritchie never dwells on Holmes’ problems as actual problems. It’s all part of the fun. Even Watson has his gambling problems.
There are the usual liberal doses of humor and hyperkinetic action that Ritchie’s movies are known for. There are also the long stretches of talking that his movies are known for, but it doesn’t detract, largely because of the actors involved. Robert Downey Jr. has Holmes bouncing of the walls with his twitchy comic timing, while Jude Law more than holds his own as longtime Holmes sidekick Dr. John Watson. In fact, I’d go so far as saying he steals the movie from Downy.
Jude Law has always been a great actor, both starring in movies and offering supporting roles. He shines in this as Watson, fitting in very easily to the period to which the story is set. He’s funny throughout, allowing himself to put up with Holmes who is having some sort of separation anxiety at the prospect of Watson getting married.
They are not alone in their performances and are surrounded by a number of great character actors. The chameleon-like Mark Strong is menacing as the movie’s main villain: Lord Blackwood.
He speaks with a sinister snake-like tone and appears to be able to get into Holmes’ head. He moved as a villain should. You can sometimes tell a villain by how they sit and Strong captures that perfectly, sitting Shatner-esque upon making himself the leader of a Scotland Secret Society. He has the air of a would be evil mastermind.
I’ve seen Strong in many other movies, but until I looked up his film credits, I couldn’t place him. He was a standout in Body of Lies but I would have never made the connection. He was COMPLETELY unrecognizable in Sunshine (but that might have had something to with the makeup and heavy FX).
Eddie Marsan as the Inspector Lastrade will probably get overlooked by a lot of people. He’s a very talented actor and I enjoy seeing him whenever he pops up in a movie. In this he’s a dour Scotland Yard inspector who doubles as a impediment to the movie’s protagonist and comedy relief.
Kelly Reilly (who I last saw in Eden Lake) was good as Watson’s fiancee. I was glad to see her in a movie where she didn’t have to suffer so much.
Even Robert Maillet was fun as the French bruiser Dredger, who popped up from time to time to serve as both a villain and comedy relief. His size is played up several times (which is kind of hard to overlook), but unlike a lot of onscreen bruisers, actually showed a good bit of acting talent.
The lovely and talented Rachel McAdams did a good job at portraying Irene Adler, a former love and foil of Holmes.
The back and forth verbal fencing with Holmes actually took a back seat to that of Holmes and Watson, though. Which is at the heart of the story…
The movie gets off to a very quick pace with Holmes and Watson foiling a sacrificial murder by the evil Blackwood and from his jail cell where he’s waiting execution, he hatches his master plan.
This is of course just to framework to hang the bickering friendship of Holmes and Watson. Watson’s getting hitched and Holmes is beside himself in fear that it will break up their partnership. I won’t get into any further detailing of the story. The story isn’t as important as the characterizations which is usually true in a Ritchie film.
One thing that did aggravate me (which ALWAYS aggravates me) is the fact that there are scenes in the trailer that are NOT in the movie. One of the scenes omitted is one with McAdams which I wouldn’t have minded seeing.
Peter Jackson can’t seem to cut anything in the editing room. Ritchie in this case edits out scenes that are being used to sell the movie. Is that false advertising?
Sherlock Holmes is full of great big movie action sequences and was funnier than a lot of comedies that I’ve seen recently. I think it’s Guy Ritchie’s best film (of the movies that I’ve seen of his). I liked Snatch, but had more fun watching this one. When it finally ends, you know there’s more if the movie succeeds adequately (which I think it has).
I’m reminded of the final moments of Peter Weir’s ‘Master and Commander’. They leave you with not a definitive nod to a sequel (or franchise), but with a nod to the long history of the characters. There isn’t a real need for a sequel, but I for one would like to see one. Now I have to go revise my ‘Best Of 2009 Movies’.