by Rick Grant
Filmmaker Guy Richie has reinvented the perennial genius detective, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) as a kung-fu master / swashbuckler. Richie’s vision of Homes as an action hero may not sit well with Holmes’ purists. However the new buff Holmes figures out his cases on the fly while bashing the bejesus out of the bad guys with his sidekick, Dr. Watson, (Jude Law) who also possesses martial arts skills.
Clearly, this movie is an example of what I call Hollywoodization of scripts, in that it contains the action sequences, special effects, and explosions with slow-mo stunts that sell tickets. Acceptance of this blatant commercialization of the Holmes legend is a prerequisite to enjoying the film.
On the positive side, Downey’s characterization of Holmes is cleverly complex. It includes Holmes’ quick-witted banter with Dr. Watson, brilliant analytical conclusions, with the entertaining bonus of his advanced fighting skills. Downey’s Oscar worthy performance of Holmes greatly upgrades the film.
The plot involves a secret society like the Free Masons who believe in the occult. When their leader, the evil Lord Blackwood (Marc Strong) is hanged, he supposedly rises from his grave and seeks to neutralize Holmes, who is putting the pieces of this case together as he sneaks around the dark streets of London in disguise. Meanwhile, Blackwood is carefully planning a major terrorist event to take over the British government.
Rachel McAdams portrays a female verison of Holmes, Irene Adler, who is working for none-other than the infamous Morieority, who is never seen but portrayed in shadows in this film, leaving the door open for a sequel. Irene is the closest thing to a girlfriend Holmes has ever courted. But his real friend is Dr. Watson. Could the team of writers be alluding to Holmes and Watson being a gay couple? If they are, it’s subtle. But the two guys behave like an old married couple, bickering, but inseparable. Irene is a tough cookie and a great foil for Holmes, who respects her martial arts talents.
Richie’s production design gives an eerie dark underbelly to the London streets. Viewers almost expect Jack the Ripper to emerge from a dark corner in this crime infested city. Holmes creeps around the shadows looking for clues. In the convoluted screenplay, written by Michael Robert Johnson and Anthony Peckham, the development of the characters, except for Holmes and Watson, come up short. The supporting cast is neglected in favor of the action sequences.
The docile bulldog was a nice touch. Holmes was always experimenting on his poor dog to test out his latest sedatives. The fat bulldog spends his time mostly in a drug induced sleep. The black raven appearing at the sight of Blackwell’s ghostly appearances was maddeningly cliche.
Overall, the film’s flaws are not enough to discourage viewers from seeing it. It’s an entertaining commercial film. Most people will love the action sequences and explosions. In this classic tale of Sherlock Holmes, he is a cross between Jackie Chan and the latest MMA champion. Holmes is fast with his fists, sticks, and swords. More importantly, he’s a quick thinking detective.
Sherlock Holmes Movie Review
by Rick Grant