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The grandfather of the mystery genre — and film’s most adapted character — is none other than the great detective Sherlock Holmes, so if one were to apply Holmes’ own deductive reasoning skills, a modern reinvention was a matter of time. English Director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, RocknRolla) applies his witty and gritty crime thriller style to the first mainstream 21st Century version of Holmes, one that will likely appeal to a younger crowd and those less familiar with previous incarnations of the iconic sleuth.
The reason is the new “Holmes” is much less concerned with the quality of the mystery and more focused on breathing a new quirkiness and style into the character and his top-notch detective work. The script hopes you’ll be hooked on the reveal of how Holmes figures everything out and not so much the crime/mystery itself. In other words our new “Holmes” is about creating an entertaining diversion in the form of clever logic, high-brow humor and old-school science — it uses mystery conventions but to a showier end. Wisely, Warner Bros. has trusted the responsibility of delivering this amusement to one of the best and hottest comedians out there in Robert Downey Jr.
Downey Jr. continues to impress in his turn as Holmes, managing to employ his same wit and charms while creating a unique character that makes you feel as if you’re watching Holmes, not RDJ with yet another accent. This Holmes is not merely a wise detective of old, but the quirky type, suggesting some insanity behind the genius. RDJ makes him much more colorful and entertaining and takes attention away from an okay storyline.
The mystery surrounds Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who appears to have supernatural abilities derived from an ancient magic. He creates terror in London appearing to have risen from the grave and committed a couple murders. Holmes and his dear friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law) are on the verge of ending their partnership because Watson has plans to settle down and marry when the crafty Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) gets them deep into the Blackwood case.
The supernatural angle didn’t work well for the latest Indiana Jones film and it doesn’t exactly do well here. Sherlock Holmes Ver. 2009 is a little more Dan Brown Angels & Demons and a little less Se7en. This is fine for those who can look to Holmes for a more mainstream romp than what an older crowd might hope to be a rigorous exercise in fine mystery and logic. Again, the fewer the expectations, the better.
As for the lean and mean Guy Ritchie depiction of Holmes, it’s not entirely unfounded. The script creatively draws the connection between Holmes’ intellectual prowess and how he might use it in a physical bout. It adds another dimension and ups the entertainment factor of the character. It might feel like it’s giving a character steroids to put on more of a show, but the appeal would be too narrow if Holmes were straight-laced. Credit, however, has to go to Downey Jr. for making this vision work. His banter with Watson and ability to use classic Holmes logic to a comic effect is infinitely enjoyable.
It does take a bit of settling in to understand exactly what direction this new Holmes is going in, but it works thanks to RDJ and picks up as the mystery thickens and Holmes’ limits are tested. McAdams’ character lacks enough strength to stay memorable and as much as I like Strong, his character lacks dimension too. But the rebirth of Holmes will be a nice Holiday escape for the modern audience and those willing to keep an open mind. It’s not your grandfather’s Sherlock Holmes but can you think of any reason why it should be?
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Written by Michael Robert Johnson, Lionel Wigram, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
Other Player Affinity Reviews:
Kieran thought: “Reboots have been all the rage in recent years, working well for Batman and James Bond. Because of this Warner Brothers saw fit to bring Sherlock Holmes back to cinema screens after 24 years locked away. After getting his directing career back on track, Guy Ritchie was brought in to direct a fast-paced action film, which was basically a buddy comedy set in Victorian London. Ritchie shows his eye for good action sequence and witty comedy that he was famous for in his gangster films. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have solid chemistry together, creating excellent characters and with Ritchie’s direction played against Sherlock Holmes clichés. But Sherlock Holmes suffers from a uninspired script with a fairly weak plot. There needed to be a little more investigation and should have been a little more serious.” Rating: 7/10
Simon thought: “For a movie to infuse such intelligence into a blockbuster template is a rarity in Hollywood today. Sherlock Holmes weaves a plot as complex as they come, while keeping everything decipherable even when you’re being misled. When the credits roll, you will leave the theater having been challenged, not feeling brain-dead. Any deficiencies that do arise are quickly overshadowed by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the famed duo. Downey Jr. has quickly become one of the most reliable actors working today and with a good script at his back the result is riveting. Elementary, I suppose. Scored by Hans Zimmer and featuring dazzling period cinematography, the quality of the production seems to reach every facet of the film. Although directed by Guy Richie (the epitome of a love/hate filmmaker), the story remains truthful to the source novels while incorporating ample original flair. This is one of the few budding franchises that actually inspires hope for the movies.” Rating: 8/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 7.3/10