December 25, 2009
Review - " Sherlock Holmes " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Guy Richie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong,
Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly
Robert Downey Jr. may not be tall or British like Sherlock Holmes, but he
does possess the single most important attribute needed to play
England’s famous sleuth. The actor is smart.
In the highly entertaining Sherlock Holmes busy plot, vivid locations,
thorny relationships, fights, chases and explosions all vie for attention.
Yet amid these many moving parts, the film ultimately succeeds for one
simple reason: Downey makes his character’s impossibly brilliant
deductions seem almost believable.
Ritchie has refashioned Sherlock Holmes into a whiz-bang adventure
movie. While he’s still solving mysteries, he’s also a man of action. It
can be a disconcerting notion until you see it in use. Holmes, using his
famous deductive reasoning, assesses situations with lightning-fast
rapidity. His prowess is not a result of brute force but rather the ability to
instantly spot weakness using his strength of observation. It’s a clever
conceit and one of the movie’s best “updates.” Downey, as Holmes,
keeps his career-rejuvenating hot-streak alive, oozing charm and
The story begins three months after Holmes and Watson's last case,
with Watson preparing to move out of Holmes' apartment in preparation
for his own marriage to the lovely Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Holmes
never knows what to do with himself between jobs anyway, and the
imminent breaking up of the old partnership has him especially flustered.
He and Watson bicker as if they are the married couple, the good doctor's patience worn thin by Holmes' unruly demeanor,
his always-rightness, and the dangerous scientific experiments he conducts in his apartment.
Into this chaos comes Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), an American who is a master criminal and the only woman Holmes has
ever loved. She's one of the few people able to deceive him, too. "Why are you always so suspicious?" she asks, to which he
replies, "Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?" Oh, what a history they must have together! That would be a fun
thing to put in a movie someday.
This time, Irene gets Holmes and a reluctant Watson involved in a rather puzzling mystery. It seems Lord Blackwood (Mark
Strong), recently hanged for murder, has risen from the grave to commit more murders. Now Holmes' interest in piqued. Could
there be a supernatural explanation this time?
The first half of the film is buoyant and funny, full of witty Holmes-and-Watson dialogue and numerous amusing instances of
Holmes being smarter than everyone else even when he looks like he hasn't bathed or shaved in a week. (There's a bit of
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, in Downey's performance.) Downey and Law have a fine rapport, together and in their interactions
with the hapless police Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan).
The screenwriters share an ear for flirtatious, impassioned dialogue, which Downey and Law zealously embrace. That's right, I
said Downey and Law: This incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is a 21st century bromance that teems with combustible male
chemistry. Downey's detective is an attention-craving, arrogant, amoral, and brilliant wild card of a character. Law's sidekick
captures the impatient aristocrat hiding beneath the polished actor's pedicured surface. And we savor every minute we spend
in their company. The Watson-Holmes vibe burns so bright that a third leg to the Victorian love triangle, personified by Rachel
McAdams, feels wholly unnecessary. The poor starlet, wasted in her role, probably thought she was signing on for Downey's
love interest, not realizing that part belonged to Law.
Maybe Ritchie will carve out more space for
her character in the sequel, teased in this
film's closing scenes with the promise of
Holmes' legendary adversary Professor
Moriarty finally entering the picture. Based
on Ritchie's exhilarating introductory chapter,
I'm more than eager for another ride,
provided it's as mentally stimulating as this.