Directed by Guy Ritchie
Released December 25, 2009
Robert Downey, Jr. has charisma. There’s no debating that. He’s marvelously able to command movies with his sheer ability to talk and to dismiss the actions and words of those around him as insignificant and uninteresting. That personality serves him well here as he takes on the role of legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal is very much half Downey, half Holmes, but in this case it works beautifully. His accent, costumes, and demeanor help complete the transformation from contemporary American actor to period British detective, and like with all of his other recent films, Downey owns the film and makes it his own.
“Sherlock Holmes” isn’t all about Holmes. He’s ably supported by the dutiful Dr. Watson, played by a mustached Jude Law, who displays just the temperament to deal with the often unsavory and obnoxious Holmes. He finds his gimmicks and games grating, but continues to be loyal to the man because he is his friend. It’s a magnificent friendship to behold, and the duo of Downey and Law, both clearly have a great time, is a delightful gift. They anchor the movie’s silliest scenes, and the bewildered yet slightly smug expressions on their faces during the greatest of their shenanigans make them infinitely more entertaining. Eddie Marsan (“Happy-Go-Lucky”) completes the dynamic perfectly as the bumbling Inspector Lestrade.
This adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed hero does a good job casting its primary characters, but a tragically poor job picking the story. Villain Lord Blackwood seeks to reunite England and create a monarchy with him and his secret society at the top. It’s a plot that involves supernatural elements and world domination, and posits Holmes as a celebrity as its very beginning. This movie isn’t necessarily an origin story (like “Batman Begins”), but it might have been nice to have been provided with a smoother transition into the way that Holmes works and the majesty with which he solves cases.
Regardless of intention, the breadth and scope of this film isn’t very wide, spanning only one case, even if it is one that involves the fate of a whole nation. The clear intention of this film and its storyline is to create a lasting franchise. The good news on that front is that it should be successful because the main characters work, and it’s more a matter of the case here that doesn’t. Director Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla”) seems a good choice to helm the franchise, using slow-motion and voiceover narration from Holmes to drive forward the story and flesh out Holmes’ most devious and impressive of tactics. The film does become obsessed with showcasing Holmes’ devilishly clever methods of trickery and deduction, rewinding and showing how Holmes was able to devise his conclusions. The device is hit or miss – sometimes it’s wholly extraneous and tiresome, and at others it’s necessary and helpful. Either way, it’s what Holmes is all about, and the characterization of Holmes and the entertainment he provides is the strongest element of this film.
Thursday, December 31, 2009