Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly the biggest film Guy Ritchie has made to date. Some might view it as a departure from his usual British gangster fare, but I see it as the ideal Guy Ritchie movie. Sherlock Holmes is the movie he was born to make.
After years of hovering just below the surface of super-stardom, Robert Downey Jr. broke out in a big way with last year’s Iron Man. Here, he stars as the film’s title character, which is an ass-kicking edition of the detective. His version of Holmes is really not too much different than his character in Iron Man. Much like Tony Stark, Holmes is a cocky, fast talking, hard drinking genius… only much more British. As shown so brilliantly in Tropic Thunder, Downey further asserts himself as a master of accents.
Holmes and his sidekick, Watson (Jude Law) are on the trail of a sorcerer known as Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). They’ve already jailed him once for the practice of black magic and murder of five women. He was hanged and pronounced dead, but he’s somehow risen from his grave and is back to his old ways. Downey and Law have great chemistry together and their dialogue is always quite entertaining, whether it comes in the form of bickering, strategic planning, or otherwise. Racheal McAdams also partakes in the fun as a love interest that Holmes may or may not be able to trust.
Ritchie brings back some of his old tricks from his gangster films, such as the slow motion impact-focused fight sequences hinted at in previous work like Snatch. It is used nicely to emphasize Sherlock’s tactical fighting style and thought process. All of the action sequences are very well done, my favorite of which is a great looking explosion of a building that features some wonderful silhouette shots and beautiful color contrasts. There are also some wonderful wide shots of the world that Ritchie has developed for his film. It is dark and grim looking, but somehow still strangely beautiful.
There is a subtlety to Ritchie’s work that directors like Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich seem to be incapable of understanding. Ritchie never forgets that the stars of his film are Downey and Law, and doesn’t let them get lost in the mess of computer effect-driven chaos. The movie seems to lose a little steam in the middle third, but it all comes together in the conclusion when Holmes puts all of this crime-solving genius to work. Ritchie does a great job of making a more mainstream movie than he is used to making without losing his true identity. His frantic style of direction might be a bit too much for some viewers but I’ve grown quite fond of it over the years.
I don’t know what a lot of the critics thought they were getting themselves into when they started watching Sherlock Holmes, but it is an exciting and cleverly funny action flick. It really isn’t trying to be anything more or less than that. After all, we go to the movies to be entertained and Sherlock Holmes delivers entertainment on a number of levels.