The first decade of the 2000’s is poised to close with a resounding bang of a film lead by an ever-redeeming American actor and some of America’s favorite English imports.
Robert Downey Jr. hones his deductive skills to tell a classic tale with a modern make-over. Sherlock Holmes pits Sherlock and his collegue, Dr. John Watson against black magician, Lord Blackwood. After tracking Blackwood down, foiling his killing spree and witnessing his execution, Holmes and Watson discover their case is not closed. Holmes must combine brain and brawn to contend with Watson’s fiancée, the dimwitted head of Scotland Yard, the seductive wiles of American secret agent, Irene Adler, solve the mystery of Lord Blackwood’s resurrection and end his murderous reign.
I must admit that I had high expectations for this film that were unmet. That said, I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.’s performance. His persona seems to transcend the story and make you feel as if you’re witnessing something interesting when the opposite may be true. Jude Law offers an admirable portrait of the comparatively conservative Dr. Watson. It was slightly disconcerting that, even with a mustache, Law was prettier than the woman playing his fiancée (casting fail). Mark Strong (Tristan + Isolde, RocknRolla) broods well as Lord Blackwood. I was disappointed in Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. Her performance wasn’t bad, however, there seemed to be little spark between her character and Holmes’. That may be more a fault of the director or the script (no time for character development, it’s Christmas!) but the romantic tension between Adler and Holmes was minimal.
Holmes purist may have a tough time with Ritchie’s adaptation, even beyond the shirt-less pit brawling. In the books, Holmes is the common bond between Watson and Mary, his fiancée. In the film Watson introduces her to Sherlock. Also, Irene Adler has traditionally been a character that Holmes acknowledged as cunning enough to rival his powers of deduction. In this film she’s not nearly sharp enough to challenge him beyond playing up her powers of seduction. There are other points that could be combed through but book purists are never satisfied with film adaptations. Don’t get me started on the X-Men movie atrocities.
Holmes does offer action and a mild touch of humor (sometimes desperate and formulaic). Guy Ritchie (director Snatch, RocknRolla) has been known for producing good fight sequences with his “speed-it-up-slow-it-down” direction. This film offers that and then some. The CGI recreated scenery was handled really well, especially in the wide shots of 1800’s London. The dialog could be more clever but it works well once you get used to the English speech flow. This film missed the mark for me but my gut says most movie goers will enjoy it, not love it. I enjoyed this film more than the other Victorian era retread that began the decade, From Hell starring Johnny Depp (there’s a pun in there if you want it). I found myself checking my watch in spots so I have to give Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes 2.5 out of 5 Babbles.