Let’s just say one thing for sure, this isn’t your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes. This version breathes the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but purists beware that Guy Ritchie definitely takes some, ok a lot of liberties with his interpretation of the legendary detective. Reportedly, Madonna’s ex is a Holmes aficionado who’s clearly been an astute student of the subject, having gone back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s books and short stories to uncover a less tedious version of Holmes that what we’re used to seeing.
The plot basically revolves on a battle of wits & brawn between the titular detective and his partner, with a bloodthirsty nemesis whose evil scheme poses a threat to all of England. People are likely aware that Holmes is renowned for his intellectual prowess and skillful use of astute observation, deductive reasoning and forensic skills to solve difficult cases. But most, including me, aren’t used to seeing the brawny and scruffy side of him. This Holmes is more akin to Indiana Jones than the tedious version of the 1940s film version. The biggest complaint from critics is that Ritchie’s distinct directing style of fast-cutting, frenetic camera work might not fit the subject matter, but I for one don’t mind it. If anything, it perhaps broaden its appeal for those who otherwise won’t see a typical (read: stodgy) Holmes flick. The movie also benefits from casting such an inherently likable persona of Robert Downey Jr., which I initially thought as a rather odd choice. His British accent is pretty good, even if it’s intelligible at times, which is rare for most American actors to pull off. But the best part is how he infuses his title character with effortless charm and infectious wicked humor from start to finish.
Before the flick, Iron Man 2 trailer was shown. I got to admit I like RDJ’s role as Holmes a tad better than fellow action hero Tony Stark. Sure they’re both brilliant, science/technology junkie who strive to stop bad guys. But there’s something to be said about a hero who relies on their brain power than putting on a cool, practically indestructible suit. I really enjoy seeing how this guy’s mind works and his meticulous method of compiling clues and solving all kinds of mysteries, delivered with such dynamic energy that keeps it far from being boring. I don’t think this interpretation would’ve worked without RDJ, who I initially thought was somewhat of an odd choice but ends up thinking what an inspired casting it is.
As with a lot of Ritchie’s movies, there’s that element of bromance involved (as I’ve noted in my previous post). Their scenes together are the best thing in the movie to me, and their banter amusing and witty. No doubt RDJ and Jude Law as Dr. Watson have a genuine chemistry together, but it’s more in the vein of the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel’s I Love You Man and those buddy cop movies, not the Brokeback variety.
Jude Law also delivered a terrific performance as the detective’s BFF. No more just a blundering associate, Law’s Watson proves to be a capable partner who saves Holmes more times than he can count. Their relationship is like a butt-kickin’ odd couple, they bicker constantly but they feed off each other so well Holmes has a hard time accepting that his buddy’s getting married. Holmes also has a soft spot for con artist Irene (played by the appealing Rachel McAdams), who’s the crook who can outwit the detective. The ubiquitous Mark Strong is sneeringly effective as the murderous Lord Blackwood. He seems everywhere these days, as he’s got four movies this year alone (the other three are Endgame, The Young Victoria, and The Odds), and in Body of Lies and Rocknrolla last year. I like the bloke, he’s a darn good actor who deserves to get some lead roles by now. In any case, fans of Holmes who expect to see arch nemesis Prof. Moriarty might have to tune in to the sequel however, as he’s reduced to brief and disguised appearance. The rumor mill apparently has been buzzing with the possibility of Brad Pitt being cast as Moriarty, but according to Examiner.com, WB rebuffed that idea. I’m not too keen on it either, as I’ve never been a Pitt fan (I still haven’t even seen Snatch because he’s in it). I agree with the article, Hugo Weaving seems like a better choice, or any English or Australian actor of that age for that matter.
The visual effect of the movie is awesome. Ritchie captures that old, antique look of the grimy industrial nineteenth century London beautifully with the help of the vivid cinematography by Oscar winner Philippe Rousselot. No wonder this movie’s shortlisted to win Best Visual Effects Oscar, along with Avatar, District 9, and 14 others vying for the award. The bleached color photography sets the mood, and the costumes and set pieces is done with painstaking detail. This article went in depth into recreating that world: In creating a tangible feel of Sherlock Holmes’s London, Guy Ritchie wanted to portray a city at the crossroads between the past and a newly dawning future–an expansive and gritty place with bold new architecture being layered over the old.
Ritchie’s might have more luck making a sequel of this movie than his last one Rocknrolla (which he initially wrote as a trilogy). I happen to think that one is a pretty good movie and I could see how the trilogy idea might work. But the success of Holmes ($65 million in its first weekend) means a followup is far more likely. Wow, Downey just may have another profitable franchise under his belt, this guy is the biggest comeback kid of the decade!
All in all, Sherlock Holmes is a jolly entertaining movie that’s quintessentially very British, just like any other Ritchie’s flick, but I for one wouldn’t want it any other way. So if you’re willing to break traditions and be willing to accept the British PI outside of his hounds-tooth coats, you’d be in for a rollicking good time.