Sherlock Holmes – Review

Interesting new take on the mythical detective suffers from “franchise” functions

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Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com

Director: Guy Ritchie
Notable Cast:
Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams

Adapting a famous literary character into a motion picture is seemingly as tough as adapting a comic book character. Given a fan base’s perception of what a character should be, and what it turns out becoming, sometimes no matter how good a film or take on a character is there will be vocal portions of a fan base that won’t be happy. Sherlock Holmes has been a character who has seen his fair share of screen time and yet has never had a truly satisfactory cinematic excursion. Given the capable hands of Guy Ritchie behind the camera, and Robert Downey Jr. in front of it, Sherlock Holmes is a good beginning to what perhaps could be Downey’s second franchise character.

Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is a killer whom Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) have brought to justice as the film begins. When he manages to seemingly rise from the grave, his past with a secret society and the occult manages to come to light. Things take a turn for the worse as Holmes now has to stop him from destroying Parliament and taking over the world. Thrown in for added measure is Holmes’ former love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the only crook to have ever bested him, bringing what seems like a straightforward missing person case and Watson’s fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly) threatening to break up the crime-solving duo as he tries to leave their legendary 221B Baker Street address.

Coming off the successful Rocknrolla, Ritchie’s comfort zone is in the British gangster film so it’s not all too surprising that he’d take on Holmes. Victorian England may provide for a different setting, and distinctive sets, but Holmes is a detective from another time after all. So this is in Ritchie’s wheelhouse, and the trademark Ritchie style is on display. There’s plenty of quick camera movement, slow motion replay with narration and some flashbacks as well as some interesting Deus Ex Machina style plot developments that are his trademarks. It gives a frenetic style to what normally has been a whodunit type of film; Sherlock Holmes as a genre character lends itself to the Police Procedural more often then not. Ritchie takes this and meshes it with a faster, action-filled pace and energy that it hasn’t had before and invigorates the film. But it’s his choice as Holmes gives it the most invigoration.

Downey has been a bit of hot streak since Kiss Kiss Bang Bang signaled the beginning of the resurrection of career. With Iron Man becoming a massive hit, and Tropic Thunder the sort of ballsy career choice that would earn him an Oscar nomination, Holmes represents a chance at another major franchise for the actor. Taking on a credible British accent, his portrayal of Holmes is a markedly different one then the archetype of the famed detective. Not clad in the deerstalker cap, and a bit of a ruffian, Downey is closer to the literary version of Holmes then many of the previous portrayals but given a unique identity all his own. This is a Holmes that is cerebral and yet not afraid to get his hands dirty with some old fashioned fisticuffs. Downey continues his streak of terrific performances with a Holmes that gives him another unique franchise character to work with.

The surprising aspect of the film comes from his interactions with Jude Law. There’s a natural chemistry between the two in both their physical interactions and their banter that makes them an appealing buddy combination. The interesting part is how well they compliment one another; Watson is a bit of a brawler who swings wild and Holmes a martial artist is thinking three steps ahead of his opponent. It’s an interesting combination and it compliments their partnership as well. There’s a natural, flowing chemistry between the two that makes the film more interesting. For their first film in such capacity they work together as well as the other top buddy combinations of the past like Mel Gibson & Danny Glover, or Nick Nolte & Eddie Murphy.

The problem is that the film feels a bit unfinished, as it is being set up for a franchise as opposed to being a good stand alone film on its own. There are plot lines that can’t be finished for at least another film, or two, and unfortunately it takes away from the final product. Sherlock Holmes is still quite a good film and a welcome addition to the Holmes canon.

FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):

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