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REVIEW: Sherlock Holmes
This is normally the section of the review where I talk about a director’s previous works, an important handle on how I get to grips with a film, and generally giving me some sort of comparative work to gauge the film against. At the point of writing this review I have never seen another Guy Richie movie, I don’t know how I have managed it, given that most of the people I know will have seen at least one or all of his films. Neither have I read any of Conan Doyle’s Holmes books, remembering only the arrogant old man played by the late Peter Cushing in one of his many 20th Century incarnations.
Ritchie presents a different Holmes entirely, bordering on middle aged but still relatively young, Robert Downey Jr plays a Holmes with more in common with Richard E Grant’s Withnail from Withnail and I (1986) than the aged detective of the Christopher Lee/ Cushing era. Detective, lover and occasional bare knuckle boxer, Holmes is aided by the omnipresent Dr. Watson (Jude Law) in a constant battle with the forces of evil. Evil this time taking the shape of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), as his Masonic alike witchcraft cult begins to test the logical mind of Sherlock Holmes.
%movie(1355) Given the entirely different Holmes in Ritchie’s new film, I took to the internet to find out just how far from Conan Doyle’s original character the movie had strayed. Not too far, as it turns out. The original Holmes was in fact a womanising, casual drug using street fighter, and much more the film began to grow on me with this fact. Downey is an extraordinarily watchable presence, and Watson’s relationship with Holmes is cheeky and charming, although I feel that the chemistry between the two needs more room to flourish within the inevitable sequels. If anything the setting, casting and overall tone of the film are by far its strong points, whereas the plot itself is rather filmsy and hackneyed. Strong’s Blackwood is a forgettable antagonist, lacking the charisma of the great Conan Doyle villains. The film is watchable and enjoyable for the time it takes up, but the plot is fat and slow and its rather predictable end gives the film a ‘to be continued’ air, unfitting for a film that should, by all standards, be able to hold its own weight. Downey Jr., Law and Rachel McAdams (the femme fatale love interest) throw themselves into Conan Doyls’s world with gusto however, and Ritchie’s direction shows not only a love for the characters and source material, but also a fast paced style and genuine celebration in fun, frantic action and dialog that is missing from many of 2009’s previous action films.