Sherlock Holmes (2009)

21 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the best actors of this or any generation. He has this way of becoming his character, rather than saying his lines without a proper motive. He made “Iron Man” his own movie, he deserved his Oscar nomination for the heart he put into his performance of a Aussie-turned-black-man in “Tropic Thunder,” and even if the movie “The Soloist” wasn’t recommended by me, his performance in the movie was still exceptional. That is why it’s no surprise that Downey Jr. can pull off the role of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes in his new movie, “Sherlock Holmes.” Why is it called that? Because there hasn’t been a movie featuring the great detective in quite a long time, so the executives thought, “Hey, let’s just call it ‘Sherlock Holmes’ so people will understand it more.”

Yeah, I’ll buy that.

It’s still early in the century; therefore, Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Dr. Watson (both characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective stories), must be evolved into action heroes—I have noticed that Watson, compared to previous films, had lost weight. They go through several action sequences but they’re always ready because they spring into action as early as Batman and Robin. In the meantime, they behave like college roommates. They do indeed live together and Watson (Jude Law) has a complaint midway through the movie: “Do you hear me complaining about you practicing your violin at 3:00 in the morning?” He also has a problem with Holmes firing his gun at the wall whenever he gets bored. Even riskier: Watson is engaged to marry the beautiful Mary (Kelly Reilly) but Holmes isn’t making their relationship any easier. Holmes fans will want Holmes to figure out a person by looking at his/her clothes and Holmes does that with Mary, only upsetting her. In the meantime, Holmes is trying to get through many meetings with the unbelievably beautiful Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who is working for a mysterious criminal mastermind. (His identity is a twist at the end, perfect for Holmes fans.)

The movie’s plot: Holmes and Watson stop the fiendish Satanist Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from undergoing a voodoo ritual. Blackwood is hanged for his crime, only to return from the grave soon after. So, Holmes and Watson spring into action to figure out exactly how this happened, what he was up to then, and what he’s up to now.

This leads to many sequences, including a brilliant action scene in a boat shed and a desperate struggle atop the under-construction Tower Bridge. Some of them were kind of confusing, because the plot kept rambling and it was almost hard to keep track of what was happening. However, most scenes—that boat shed scene I mentioned, the duel between Holmes and a 10-foot-tall giant, and a desperate rescue in a slaughterhouse—are riveting and fun. And Holmes makes everything come together at the end.

There are some neat ideas put into the mix, as well as some effective jokes—one, for example, involves a sledgehammer and a smaller hammer—and great visual shots by director Guy Ritchie. I was impressed by how faithful Ritchie was to the source material while also keeping us interested with some comic timing and riveting action sequences. But what really holds it together is Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes. He’s great in this movie—he portrays Holmes as a socially awkward narcissist who rubs everyone the wrong way and doesn’t know how to take care of himself. But he’s also a whiz at logic and deductive reasoning, which makes him one of the smartest people on the planet. He’s got a great relationship with Watson, played with appealing wit by Jude Law—it’s almost like a cop buddy picture with them, if you think about it, and it’s very interesting in the way they fight crime together in 19th century London, which is as dark as I’ve ever seen 19th century London displayed in the movies.

I guess the reason I’m giving it three stars is because of the plot’s meandering points, hopefully to be improved in the sequel (and there’s sure to be one, considering the near twist at the end). But what really deserves praise is, again, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s chemistry and director Guy Ritchie’s riveting directing style with the action sequences. I was entertained by “Sherlock Holmes” and am hoping that the sequel is even better.

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