STUDIO: Warner Bros
TIME: 128 Minutes
- Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented
- Your face
The world’s most beloved crime solver gets a facelift from a director known for his gritty ways, one of our most gifted American actors, and storytelling that theoretically takes the character closer to his roots.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Lionel Wigram, Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (books)
Cinematographer: Phillipe Rousselot
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr. Jude Law. Rachel McAdams. Mark Strong. Eddie Marsan. A very large man who must have some sort of pituitary issue because he looks like something that assimilated Richard Kiel and The Abomination.
Oops, dunno how I accidentally slipped a shot of my daughter’s room into these pictures.
Sherlock Holmes is a brawling, hard livin’, quirky, and socially stunted man. Who happens to be brilliant. Along with his rakish trusted associate Doctor Watson he gets entwined in a case involving the arcane, resurrection, intrigue, and the corruption of government. Worse yet, the dangerous woman he still loves is involved. Things are going to get rough and tumble in front of blatant green screens!
This should have been a really special movie. Guy Ritchie was coming off Rock’n’Rolla, a very fun return to form. Robert Downey, Jr. was on fire and the world had suddenly caught on to what a colossal talent he is. Jude Law had been wisely choosing smaller roles to give balance to his career and Mark Strong had burst onto the scene as the character actor of the moment, delivering delicious work in no less than three other films within the previous year. Plus, Sherlock Holmes is one of the truly best characters literature has ever brought the world. It couldn’t go wrong.
And it didn’t. Not really. But it’s far from the kind of big adventure worth revisiting more than once and for a big movie filled with interesting talent it’s awfully forgettable. And overlong. And….
It was then that Tony Stark realized that the male Wonder Twin had taken the form of a pillow.
Let’s get this out of the way, the performers are all fantastic in this movie. Robert Downey, Jr. is so effortless and deliciously quirky as Sherlock that he forges a very new and superb incarnation of a character often portrayed as stuffy and too scholarly. Not that it’s a bad thing, most of the Sherlock Holmes films (aside from the Rathbone/Bruce ones my favorite is the delightful Without a Trace) are laden with great moments and rich mysteries but Downey does a wondrous job of keeping him fun for the younger crowd without losing the manic brilliance of the character. He reminds me almost of a mixture between Downey’s Tony Stark by way of the Sleepy Hollow version of Ichabod Crane as filtered through the Holmes machine. And it works. Famously. His accent is great and fun, he pulls off the action stuff famously, and his chemistry with Jude Law leaves you wishing for a better story to showcase them. Law’s also very good, delivering a much sexier and less second banana Watson. Together they make the film worth seeing on their own merits.
Rachel McAdams is fine, but it’s difficult to see why Holmes would expose himself so willingly to a character so far beneath him in the cunning department. Having her wind up as a victim tied up to a contraption that Holmes needs to save doesn’t really work in 2009, but she certainly doesn’t pull a Pitillo here. Mark Strong lives up to his surname as the nefarious Lord Blackwood though with this business offering no guarantees it’d be nice to have had Professor Moriarty factor in a little more tangibly rather than getting the Batman Begins Joker treatment. Eddie Marsan is fine, doing his best not to completely devolve into Casey Siemaszko.
“Why are you looking at me like Dan Explode is creeping up on me?”
And Guy Ritchie does a solid job as a big budget mainstream filmmaker. Let’s face it, he’s at his best in London’s underbelly bouncing between an assortment of colorful weirdos and this film is as close to his aesthetic as a Hollywood blockbuster could be. He does a good job and one would hope the whole cast and crew can come back in a few years and get it right.
As it stands, it’s very good performers delivering some very good moments and a rickety carriage. Devin mentioned this to be akin to a Scooby Doo episode in his theatrical review and he’s dead right. So much so that I waited for Mark Strong to climb out of the giant French dude’s body and utter some sniveling line about almost getting away with it were it not for them. There’s a conceit about black magic running through the film but there’s no room in the Sherlock Holmes world for magic. This isn’t Harry Potter with ball hair. This is the World’s Greatest Detective. As a result, there really isn’t any audience investment in the mystery at all but rather a case of us following a great actor riffing while the plot stays firmly on rails.
It’s entertaining enough, but it could have used several rewrites (I mean, they only had FOUR screenwriters) and a healthy trim. This is a movie that loses a lot of steam once it gets to the big set pieces, especially the climactic bridge sequence that in many ways takes the audience right out of the picture in the same way The Incredible Hulk‘s monster smash-up did. There’s so few real things on the screen and the craft is so not seamless that one becomes numb to it all. That moment showcases that Guy Ritchie may have needed a few more days in green screen class.
Rachel McBodydouble earns her wage.
When it works it’s because of fun little moments. The way Holmes dissects Watson’s fiance and pays the price for it. Seeing Watson try and keep the peace in their home as Holmes tests guns, drugs their pets, and imbibes concoctions meant for surgery. Little touches like the reveal of Blackwood’s glass needle sneak attack weapon. Downey’s insane energy either let loose or compressed to near hilarity. The fun rapport between Holmes and Inspector Lestrade or his mustachioed second in command. The little moments really work. Arguing over a coat, when Holmes tries to use a fortune teller to trick Watson, the use of the term ‘Ginger Midget’. Retracing Holmes’ steps from a beating or a stealth mission. Little moments. And not enough of them.
The big moments however, are almost entirely forgettable. The climax on the bridge is dreadful, the shipyard battle is only remarkable because the man chasing Holmes is a real-life outcast from the Mütter Museum. The little fight scenes are interesting in how they’re deconstructed by Holmes’ narration but most of that stuff was burned in the teasers and trailers. As a quirky character study it works. As an event film it’s kind of a dud. Which is said, because I’ll take a weird experiment with a director who still has some cards up his sleeve than something that comes across as recycled redundant work like Alice in Wonderland or Robin Hood. This is ultimately a disappointment but not because of the talent and not because of their lack of effort. They’re just betrayed by lame set pieces and misplaced focus..
Apparently not a fan of fading away.
It’s ok. It should have been a lot better. If the material could have come even close to matching Downey’s performance and virtuosity we’d be talking about a classic. Instead, we won’t be talking about this film at all in a year.
But the end credits are gorgeous. I’ll give it that.
From a certain angle, the sausage in the gumbo looks like James Fox.
There is one special feature, a look at how they approached the world of Sherlock Holmes with their new set of peepers. It’s decent but extremely short and nothing above EPK quality. And that’s the only special feature. I don’t even remember the menus being all that animated.
All in all, a weak showing.
The new zoom feature on Google Earth is fuckin’ impressive.
6.5 out of 10