Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

"Holmes, does your depravity know no bounds?"

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong

Rating: 6/10

Guy Ritchie’s butch reworking of Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero is not to everybody’s taste but it is certainly not as bad as it could have been. Downey Jr. makes a charismatic Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law is a suitably frustrated Watson. The core relationships are great. Downey Jr. And Law are fantastic comic actors and both very likeable and when they share screen time it is a joy to watch them play together.

Watson has just announced that he is to be married and will no longer be Holmes’ partner. Holmes takes this rather badly. Meanwhile, evil Satanist serial killer, Lord Blackwood, whom Holmes has recently foiled, has seemingly risen from the dead and seemingly plans to take over England and then the world. With the police at a loss, Holmes must figure out how to stop the dark Lord Blackwood.

Holmes’ relationship with the police is a highly entertaining strand. Police Inspector Lestrade, a grumpy, begrudging man played to perfection by Eddie Marsan brings a lot of the humour and one can’t help but take immense pleasure in Holmes’ one-upmanship.

However, a huge problem overrides the positive aspects. This problem is the frankly stupid plot. It is a ridiculously over-the-top story with a Harry Potter-style villain. Here is where the film strays most wildly from Conan Doyle’s famed storytelling. The Sherlock Holmes stories I’m used to feature a simple story that is eventually revealed to be more than meets the eye. This story is completely convoluted and is wrapped up by some of the most indelicate exposition I’ve ever seen. And Lord Blackwood is just too evil! He belongs in a fairytale, not a detective movie. Actor Mark Strong must have been owed a huge favour by Guy Ritchie because I can’t think of any other reason he would have cast him. If I had to guess I would say the role was originally written with another of Ritchie’s affiliates, Jason Statham , in mind. The role reeks of him and Mark Strong certainly feels like he was slotted in there to replace somebody.

This is a film that will certainly entertain. It has its moments of fun and the portrayals of Holmes and Watson are enjoyable. This feels like the perfect antidote to the other Christmas blockbuster, the long and heavy Avatar. Check your brain at the door and sit back and bask in the violence (cos there’s a surprising amount of it), the humour and the performances. Just don’t expect to throw out your Basil Rathbone collection quite yet.

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