Dec 2009 25

sherlock-holmes-holiday-poster-watsonWith the blockbuster sized success of films like The Dark Knight it only makes sense to put in production a film like Sherlock Holmes, who is the forerunner to The Caped Crusader. The film relies heavily on the chemistry of its two stars, and squeezes every drop from it.

Forget Basil Rathbone’s portrayal of the intellectual detective Holmes. Believe it or not the Holmes in the original stories is not one of clean and concise appearance, and certainly not the perfect ideal of law. In fact Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes is much closer to the character in the Arthur Conan Doyle books. The character is sloppy, and a bit bohemian.  The Holmes in this film is brash, arrogant, and has a willingness to bend the rules of the law to suit his purposes. He is an intensely bright man, who can only be sated by continual quests that challenge his overly complex man. Does this sound like the Holmes we know? Not really, this is a slightly exaggerated (and at times less so, hence no opium addiction), but closest adaptation yet.

We first meet  Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner Watson (Jude Law) as they are ending a case. We see Holmes in desperate pursuit trying to stop another murder from occurring. Along the way we are shown a sequence show in slo-motion, with the voice over of Holmes explaining his moves. We get little insights like this throughout the beginning portion of the film to let us know the way his mind works. His actions may seem sloppy on the surface, but every detail is planned out to maximum efficiency.  After the mystery is solved, and the right people are put away Holmes spends months of boredom, only filled by experimenting with guns and sometimes drugging his dog. When it seems that the case is not finished Holmes is set on a series events that may be bigger than he could solve. Will he finally meet his intellectual match?

The beginning of the film sets up the characters brilliantly. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the character of Sherlock Holmes than the views into his thought process. It is nice to be shown how intelligent a character is, rather than told through endless series of dialogue. I liked these scenes so much that I missed them towards the end of the film where it seems to take for granted the character’s thought process.  It is a minor flaw, and one that is only disappointing due to the wow factor of the earlier scenes. Unfortunately, the film does drag a bit in the middle, and by the time it regains its footing it becomes more convoluted.  Characters are blasted with dynamite, and are only left with no serious major injuries and secret plans are laid out in what seems in an impossible manner.

Luckily, this doesn’t stop the movie from being enjoyable. What you come for in a movie like this is the eccentricities of character that Robert Downey Jr. brings to the screen so well. He did it once with Tony Stark in Iron Man, and he has done it again in Sherlock Holmes. Holmes can be a bit of an insufferable know it all, but in the end his vibrant spirit and humor work so well that all is forgiven. His character makes it that much easier to feel the suffering of his long time partner in crime (or solving it) much more real. Jude Law plays Watson with just the right amount of gusto mixed with exasperation. Not the doddering old fat man like many Holmes stories, Law’s Watson is the ex-military doctor described in Doyle’s novels. Every bit as capable as his friend and partner, but with less eyes for the details.

The supporting cast is strong in this as well. Rachel McAdams plays thief, and love interest to Holmes. McAdams’ beauty makes her more believable as a woman who can distract to get what she wants. Sure beauty is more of a trait than a skill, but McAdams holds her own with the star studded duo she is hired to play against. Mark Strong is the other supporting player whose time it is to shine. Strong is so solid in other flicks, that it is about time that he gets a big name film like this really strut his stuff. His villain has the right amount of creepy mixed with charm to make you think that Holmes might have found someone to play a big game of human chess with.

There is no doubt there that Downey is now going to be tied to yet another popular franchise. His comeback into Hollywood has to be one of the greatest in a while, and I think many people are grateful for it. It is very interesting though that Downey, an American, was chosen to play the world’s greatest British detective, Sherlock Holmes. While Christian Bale, a Brit,  was chosen for America’s greatest detective, Batman.

If you are looking for a big budget action flick to sit down with friends and family with over the holiday, it is worth the price of admission to see Sherlock Holmes. The humor and action will keep most people entertained. The biggest problem that most American audiences will find with the film is Downey’s Cockney accent which at times was hard even for an accent buff like me to understand. This is a film that will be well suited to subtitles come Blu-Ray/DVD release time.

Grade: B+


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