30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Winding his way down on Baker Street…

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is back in the latest adaptation from director Guy Ritchie. The story begins with the illustrious English detective (Robert Downey, Jr.) infiltrating a building’s basement, slowly closing in on a sacred ceremony. Friend and assistant Dr. John Watson (Law) is blocks away and not far behind, bringing with him Scotland Yard’s finest presided over by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). Meanwhile, back at the ceremony, a woman in a white dress lies on a stone slab and convulses as incantations are muttered by guys in black robes surrounding her. Watson quickly joins Holmes and they stop the ceremony, arresting its leader Lord Blackwell (Strong).

Blackwell is tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. For his last request he calls for Holmes. Holmes is in a slump, having no clientele for weeks and spending time with experimentation over socialization. Watson is moving out and planning to wed Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Answering the request Holmes visits Blackwell at prison who tells him that three people will die and he cannot do a thing about it. Also, Holmes will question his sanity and he will rise from the grave. Blackwell is subsequently hanged and Watson confirms that he’s dead.

Or is he? Holmes and Watson are called down to the cemetery because Blackwell has apparently risen from the grave. Preceding that long-lost love and cat burglar Irene Adler (McAdams) re-enters Holmes’ life. She needs him to find out about a guy named Reordan (Oran Gurel). Who she is working for and why is a mystery. Holmes finds Reordan in Blackwell’s coffin and while the whole scene looks like dark magic, to Holmes it smells like something else. Holmes is then abducted by a Secret Society that keeps order in England and who are afraid of Lord Blackwell as well as the black magic he wields.

Caught between a conspiracy, a secret order, and dark magic, Holmes and Company must keep themselves alive long enough to figure it all out. When Irene is nearly cut to pieces Holmes gets away unscathed –until barrels filled with explosives almost take his life, along with Watson and Adler. He’s woken to find that Blackwell, who is now calling the shots over Scotland Yard, wants him brought to his justice. The game is afoot (had to put that somewhere in here) as Holmes uses his wits, strength, and powers of deduction to stop Blackwell and save Parliament.

I liked it. It may not be the best movie of the year (ok, it’s not) but it’s far from the worst and a decent addition to the Sherlock Holmes catalog. I found the movie to be entertaining, witty, funny at times, and decently original.

Let me start off with what worked for the movie. First, it’s difficult to have a character such as Sherlock Holmes and “re-invent” him. The guy has been in movies since 1905 and TV since its inception; Basil Rathbone is the most renown of actors to have played him. Add to that our society’s cynicism (I’m not saying it isn’t undue) about re-inventing characters for franchise (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.) and there are some heavy odds to battle. I’ll give Guy Ritchie the fact that he did a fairly solid movie without relying on too much substance.

Instead of making an “origin” story, or basing the film on a previous book, Ritchie instead opted to craft a creative story that involved dark magic, a difficult subject to tackle in the mystery/suspense genre. “X-Files” pulled it off pretty well, but a late-19th century detective dealing with black magic? Current culture might not be on the boat with that idea, but I found it original enough to keep my interest.

While “Snatch” had amped the style found in “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” Ritchie has kept a good deal of his filmmaking style down (undoubtedly hampered by Madonna). This, his first post-Madonna feature, has him back telling a solid story and taking a few risks (original story). One scene has Holmes in a boxing match. With the folk music playing in the background, it felt like the bare-knuckles boxing match in “Snatch.” Also, there are jump-cuts and fast edits that Ritchie fans will be familiar with. Lastly, the recap on how Holmes “figured it all out” was pretty cool.

One thing I have a problem with is the formula for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Although I will state that as of this writing I have not read any of the books, I know the formula: mystery that leads to a rapid resolution at the end where everything is explained (best used in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) It works for this film because the ending justified the means of getting there, but the “non-motive” formula (where the reason why is really thin and it’s merely an explanation of how things got to where they did) is not conducive to our “CSI” society. Or maybe that’s me.

On the downside, I wanted more –umph- from the movie. I felt like it was too soft, like Ritchie wanted to make something geared more for teenagers and maybe senior citizens instead of adults or kids. I hoped for something great but the return was good/better than mediocre. Plus some of the CG of olde England didn’t feel finished or detailed enough.

As for RDJ as Holmes… interesting. Sherlock Holmes has always been a stoic, staid character. In this movie Ritchie, and Downey, portray him as more of a discombobulated scientist-meets-detective. Law as Watson has more control over emotion and deduction than Holmes. I’m not saying this is bad, just different. McAdams’ Adler is limited, as is Strong’s Blackwell.

For better or worse the movie set itself up for another Sherlock movie, almost shamelessly. We find that Adler worked for someone named Professor Moriarty (longtime arch-nemesis of Holmes) so we’re setup for a face-off between Moriarty and Holmes, should that ever happen. I honestly hate when movies do this and funny enough, most of the time when they do it’s a movie that doesn’t get a sequel (see: “Flash Gordon,” “Daredevil”). Yes, we know the bad guys are out there waiting, but please don’t make it so obvious.

Should you see this movie? I vote that it’s a solid rental/matinee. It’s enjoyable and you’ll laugh a few times. If they work up to a bigger and better “Holmes” movie, more power too them. Otherwise, this one may be forgotten.

My grade: B

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2 Responses to “Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes”


  1. April 1, 2010 at 5:54 am

    that was amazing movie… i like the effect in the movie…that was so wonderful…i love it …

    Like

  2. April 1, 2010 at 6:06 am

    that was amazing movie… i like the effect in the movie…that was so wonderful…i love it …

    Like


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