You may have watched the preview for Sherlock Holmes and thought, “This looks like Long Raging Bull Goodnight: Die Harder.” I suppose we have Hollywood to blame for that. Over the years they took Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant deductionist who had training in fisticuffs and made him an effete snooty cartoon — more in line with the anti-intellectualism we see everywhere today. Well, director Guy Ritchie is taking back the rough-and-tumble Holmes. He went younger, scrapper, and more eccentric than fey: Robert Downey Jr. (as in so many things) is a brilliant choice to play the famed inspector. Downey as Holmes has a wonderful distracted, confident, mental patient air about him. Someone whose brain catalogues and cross-references details so constantly and meticulously would probably today be diagnosed with some nervous disorder or tic. Downey’s Holmes has an ADD-like concentration and wide scatter of the net, and a disdain for the distracting requirements of polite society. He already floats a little above our plane of reality with his survivor’s eyes and keen intelligence, and here it’s put to marvelous use.
Jude Law as Downey’s partner in life and in crimes, Dr. Watson, is also a fantastic choice. He’s groomed, urbane, exasperated, arrogant, playful – and smart enough not to bore Holmes. They have sparkling old friend chemistry and an eye-rolling true affection for each other that borders on hostility. I confess I adore this pair and I do hope for a mini franchise, just for the pleasure of being longer in their company. Yeah, I said it. Of course I said the same thing about the ensemble in Pirates of the Caribbean and look where that got us. Rachel McAdams is the unnecessary but still enjoyable sexy American petty criminal who joins the fun and of course becomes key later. Judging by her scenes in the preview cut from the movie, she was the first sacrificed on the altar of the brisk 90 minute running time.
The adventure story of the film is a classic — it could be Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot, or Scooby Doo. A criminal (Mark Strong) terrorizes the city for his nefarious and ambitious plans. He does so in an inexplicable and therefore seemingly unbeatable fashion, and all are powerless to stop him. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for these bickering, brilliant kids. Keep in mind, this is still directed by Guy Ritchie, so we have some exciting James Bond-worthy action and a nailbiter climax, and yet it’s all kept very feasible and well within period limits. The wonderful Industrial Age details and technology of society as a whole, the machines and lab equipment and exciting new inventions, the opportunistic weaponry and beaten-looking citizenry, these all prevent Sherlock Holmes from feeling like someone just made another action movie and dressed it in Beloved Icon drag (for a bad example of this, see Star Trek: Nemesis). Holmes feels very of his time and very relevant at the same time. Sherlock Holmes is a solid, enjoyable film with a fun score, a great use of sound and environment, and a trio of confederates you will want to know more of.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 12/25/09
Time in minutes 90
Director guy Ritchie
Studio Warner Brothers