***1/2 (out of 5)
December 25, 2009
Robert Downey Jr. as SHERLOCK HOLMES
Jude Law as DR. WATSON
Rachel McAdams as IRENE ADLER
Mark Strong as LORD BLACKWOOD
Eddie Marsan as INSPECTOR LESTRADE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
BY KEVIN CARR
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Guy Ritchie’s updated and snappier adaptation of “Sherlock Holmes” has had its fair share of press, both good and bad. There were early reports about reshoots, which sometimes means the film is getting tinkered with too much. Then, as we got closer to the release, the early trailers looked pretty nifty.
Now, with Christmas upon us and having this movie as one of the big releases (going up against computer generated chipmunks and old people doing it), there’s a lot of buzz whether it’s going to click with audiences.
The story follows the well known detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) trying to solve the case of serial killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who seems to have come back from the dead. Aided by his long-time partner Dr. Watson (Jude Law), Holmes uses his unique style of detection and inference to piece together the mystery behind Lord Blackwood’s crimes.
First, it has to be said that this movie is nothing like the old Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because a pompous and stuffy detective, or the stiff but authentic portrayal that Basil Rathbone gave us, would probably not connect with this average moviegoer today. Guy Ritchie punches things up quite a bit, turning the somber detective stories into a big budget action piece. If you can get past this fact, you will have a much greater chance of liking the film.
There’s a lot of Guy Ritchie in this piece, considering the man cut his feature film teeth on movies about criminals in London. While we don’t have a cast of thugs led by Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones, the movie does definitely feel like a Ritchie film. There’s lots of innovative camerawork that makes things pop, and the entire movie has a frenetic feel to it.
This can work against the movie at times, making the entire experience as busy as a two year old child on a sugar high. At times, the plot is a little hard to follow, making itself overly complicated and murky. I did find myself at several points wondering how the characters got in their various situations.
The best part about this movie by far is the casting. Robert Downey Jr., who saw a resurgence in his career last year, continues to be a hoot to watch. Like I said earlier, it’s a blindingly different interpretation of the character from Basil Rathbone, but Downey Jr. makes the game very fun. He’s still compelling and engaging on screen, so chalk up another win for the man to go alongside Tony Stark of the “Iron Man” franchise.
But let’s not forget Jude Law as Dr. Watson. Again, an ass-kicking sidekick unlike anything you’ve seen in previous incarnations, Law still gives us a fun version of the character. Both actors, along with most of the rest of the cast, make this one of the most entertaining Holmes stories from a popcorn perspective.
In fact, the only weak link from the actors is Rachel McAdams, who phones in her performance as Holmes’ adversarial love interest Irene Adler.
Ultimately, the film improves in the third act and comes together nicely. If you can get past the hyperactivity of the film, you should have a good time. But I still consider the forgotten 1980s flick “Young Sherlock Holmes” to be one of my favorite adaptations.