— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Sherlock Holmes is no doubt one of the most recognizable characters in fiction to date and director Guy Ritchie has courage to put his unique touch to the legend.
Though Ritchie is not the best director in the business, his films do tend to be entertaining and his latest movie “Sherlock Holmes” is no exception. With over200 movies based on the adventures of the uncompromising detective and an even larger fan-base, that’s good news for both Ritchie and movie-goers during this competitive Christmas season.
Detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are put to the task of capturing the murderous Lord Blackwood and they do so, in fact, they do it in the first scene. But, of course, things never go as planned; Lord Blackwood is hanged for the act of murder and practicing black magic, but the lines of logic are blurred when a worker at the graveyard, where Blackwood is buried, tells the police that he has seen the deceased murderer walk the grounds. Luckily, Holmes “doesn’t believe in magic” and emerges himself in the case, but what he finds is a plot that poses a threat to all of England.
Instead of focusing on the demons that Sherlock Holmes poses, namely his drug-addiction which is absent from this film, director Guy Ritchie chooses to dig deep into Holmes’ abilities in the martial arts to mold a more action-packed reboot of the classic. Though I personally don’t like the pseudo-stylish slow-motion portions of the fight-scenes, they do delve into Holmes’ calculating nature and this stops any impression that this is a shameless box-office cash-in.
Robert Downey Jr. gives a believable portrayal of the troubled genius. Downey Jr. is charismatic, colorful and stubborn and that, in essence, is what the character of Sherlock Holmes is about. Die-hard fans of the novel will be quick to point out the implications that Downey Jr. makes about the mental state of the icon in his performance, but that is a matter for literary debates (though he pulls it off — thus adding another layer to the already multidimensional protagonist).
Jude Law exhibits chemistry with Downey Jr. that is usually prioritized in buddy-cop films, and it’s this friendship between Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes that makes it easy to look past of the film’s speed-bumps. Rachel McAdams also lends a decent performance as Irene Adler, who starts off as one of Sherlock’s obsessions and later develops into a love-interest.
But who can forget about Mark Strong, who plays the antagonist, Lord Blackwood? Well, sadly, his performance isn’t as memorable as Robert Downey Jr.’s and there really isn’t anything interesting in the character besides how much of an resemblance he shares with Robert De Niro’s character in “The Godfather II.”
Just like all good Sherlock Holmes movies, the mystery is unraveled in a spectacular finish that proves Holmes’ theory that “the small details are the most important.” Though there are some confusing scenes if you are watching them for the first time, they are nicely explained in the end sequence and those that are not, are left purposely untouched as Guy Ritchie sets up an obvious sequel (he also announced it beforehand).
The soundtrack is distinct and this fits the equally-distinct character perfectly. Some scenes are given life with a banjo in the background and others explode with emotion with dramatic orchestras. Nothing seems out-of-place and everything is nicely composed.
The one major problem with the film is its script. There isn’t anything absolutely damning, but its awfully obvious at times. I found myself reciting key dialog word-for-word before the characters did so themselves. Now, either I’ve adopted psychic powers or the script is cliche’ at times, and I, just like Sherlock Holmes, don’t believe in magic, so I’m guessing the latter.
As far as franchise reboots go, Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” may be the character’s “Batman Begins,” setting up a superior sequel, but for now, it’s an excellent winter blockbuster that strides past its flaws because of Robert Downey Jr.’s and Jude Law’s dynamic re-imaging of the iconic crime-solving duo.
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