Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is an irascible know-it-all who drinks heavily, boxes professionally, is wholly unclean, and seems to have a stronger romantic regard for his investigative sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) than he does for his American criminal ex-girlfriend Irene (Rachel McAdams). While the literary purist in me was longing for a more straightforward adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective novels, I was still entertained by the Holmes-as-action-hero approach of Guy Ritchie’s new film.
Ritchie is still improving as a filmmaker, and can’t seem to quite put together and narrative with a definite and easy flow, but this is his most accessible film in years, dealing with action set pieces and quippy start-studded dialogue on par with anything to come out of Hollywood in any given summer. I was especially impressed with a chase scene to a wharf where Holmes fights a 7-foot French thug. And, of course, I loved Downey in full-blown smartass mode once again; it is his greatest strength as an irrepressible talent. The look and sound of the film may be 19th century London, but the feeling and pacing and effect is that of an action blockbuster. If you’re looking for a stirring detective story, see “Murder on the Orient Express.” If you’re looking for slightly-more-intelligent-than-usual-action-fluff-but-still-entertaining-action-fluff, then, by all means, see “Sherlock Holmes.”
The film opens with Sherlock and Watson foiling the plot of one Lord Blackwood (a blandly sinister Mark Strong). Blackwood is to be executed, and Holmes and Watson are to split up, as Watson intends to propose to his girlfriend Mary (Kelly Reilly from “Me and Orson Welles”). Holmes, needing the hunt to survive, employs all kinds of clever tricks to get Watson to stay in his employ. Holmes is regularly called by Scotland Yard (represented by Eddie Marsan) to solves baffling cases, and Holmes breezes in to solve things. Holmes is not an intellectual or a teacher in this universe. He is a smarter-than-thou little snot. Which is fine.
But, what’s this? The Lord Blackwood may not be dead? He has been seen wandering the streets of London? And who is that buried in his newly opened tomb? And what has he to do with the mysterious laboratory across town? And how does the local pagan cult factor into all this? Is there actual magic afoot? And just how does Irene Adler factor into this? What does she know?
Rachel McAdams is a pretty actress, who has been cast in the role of a criminal femme fatale. McAdams can play many things, but a femme fatale she is not. We need an actress with edge, and McAdams has about as much edge as a throw pillow. I guess if you’re fine with staring at her in those pretty dresses, then you’ll be fine with her. Law is serviceable as Watson, and lends a note of subtlety to the character that I appreciate. And, of course, Downey is in fine form, able to play both an action hero and a genius at once.