Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
There are people in movies, some of which can be considered good actors, but few have the talent that Robert Downey Jr possesses. As a kind of-sort of member of the fabled Brat Pack, he starred in movies like Less than Zero and Weird Science (let’s not mention that ill conceived run on SNL). This would come to a head in Chaplin, a role he would earn his first Oscar nomination. We all know how much drugs and law trouble derailed his career until, arguably, 2007’s Zodiac which would lead him to Iron Man and Tropic Thunder. Sherlock Holmes continues his amazing second run.
Sherlock Holmes is a re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation by Guy Ritchie (based on a comic book by Lionel Wigram, a producer on this film). The movie opens with Sherlock Holmes (Downey) and Dr. John Watson (Law) breaking up an human sacrifice. It is revealed that the head of this cult is none other than Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), an aristocrat that had killed five others before who is immediately sentenced to death. However, strange things begin to happen as it appears that Blackwood rises from the grave and attempts to take over the country.
As the movie unfolds, we unlock more secrets (in ways only Sherlock Holmes can). We discover who Lord Blackwood actually is and a connection to a secret society that “guides” England. We also meet Irene Adler (McAdams), the only woman Holmes has ever loved, who also happens to a criminal that can almost match wits with Holmes. No wonder he likes her. Lastly, we see tension between the long time partners as Watson becomes engaged and plans on moving on with his life without Holmes, which is something Holmes fights harder than Blackwood.
Guy Ritchie provides some great action sequences as that’s his forte. The fight sequences are absolutely spectacular. It was interesting to see Holmes and Watson not just be cerebral figures, but action heroes as well. I especially liked the slow motion moments where Holmes would think ahead in a fight, decide what he was going to do and why. Watching the scene speedup and replicate everything that went on in his head is a nice touch. However, Ritchie casts Victorian England in a constant gray that is distracting. I couldn’t figure out why the movie was as dark as it was. The handling of the soon-to-be sequel was quite heavy-handed and could have been done much better.
Good news is that the acting is very good. Mark Strong is quickly becoming a go-to villain and Lord Blackwood is up there with his turns in Stardust and Kick-Ass. McAdams is cute as always, but the role really isn’t fleshed out as much as one would like. Law is simply outstanding as the level-headed, gambling addicted Watson. I would suggest that this is his best role since A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. His back and forth with Downey is nothing short of superb and they play off one another extremely well.
Of course, the real star is Robert Downey Jr. This is a shocking statement, I know. He has created a brilliant yet eccentric character that needs to be seen to be appreciated. His Holmes is much more than the usual smart man he’s usually shown as. He’s a great fighter (much like he is in the original book), but is also offensive scoundrel, never worried about what he says or who’s around to hear it. Despite his confidence, he is a rather lonely man. The one woman he loves is a criminal and he only has one friend that puts up with him no matter what: like when he’s handcuffed to a bed naked.
Bottom Line: Sherlock Holmes is a movie that’s quite fun. The fighting is intense and the deduction scenes are well done. However, the plot is rather weak and the movie itself is too visually dark and gray for it’s own good. It also runs a lot longer than needed mostly due to the Moriarty tease that’s bashed over our heads over and over again. We get it. He’s going to be in the sequel. That said, Downey with all of his charisma leads the cast as always. While nothing to write home about, it is an enjoyable ride.
I’ll return Wednesday with another 1001 Movie review. And frankly, I don’t give a damn if you like it or not. Yes, that was a big spoiler there.