By Caesar Martini
You know, when I first saw previews of Sherlock Holmes, I was skeptical. I never pictured Holmes as the type of detective that got into bareknuckle boxing matches with sweaty men, and the whole thing was presented in a silly action buddy comedy kind of way, with Robert Downey Jr. seemingly playing Holmes as a British ancestor of Tony Stark. And though some of those things are not far off the mark, I still enjoyed the movie immensely.
I reconciled the odd disparity between my image of Sherlock Holmes and the movie version of Sherlock Holmes quite quickly because: 1) Apparently, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first wrote Holmes as a somewhat socially unpleasant cocaine addict who was a skilled boxer and stick fighter, and 2) What am I, President of the Sherlock Holmes Fan Club? I was over it before the first preview ended (though apparently, members of said fan club really want Hugh Laurie to be Holmes), and I thought the action scenes were fun, cool, and entertaining.
The plot of the movie involves Holmes and Watson’s last case together, which wraps up quite nicely in the first ten minutes of the film….until the man Holmes and Watson caught is executed and comes back from the grave. The rest of the movie is spent unraveling the mystery and examining the fraternally antagonistic relationship between Holmes and Watson.
This is one of the best elements of the movie in my opinion: the relationship between Holmes and Watson. I’m not sure I’ve appreciated Jude Law more than I did in his role as Watson; it was nice to see him play a great part and play it well. Both male leads are excellent, in fact; their on-screen chemistry was great and both were charismatic and enjoyable. Less enjoyable was Mark Strong as the villain of the film. Strong is a good actor, but I suspect the extent of the direction he got in the film was “Look evil and talk spooky”, because that’s more or less all he does. As far as villains go, he was one-dimensional and uninteresting.
In some ways Sherlock Holmes is obviously a Guy Ritchie film: the rapid-fire British dialogue, sharp wit, the slow motion shirtless dudes fighting, and other little directorial quirks that fans of his work will probably recognize. On the other hand, Holmes is Ritchie’s first non-R-rated movie in North America, and it was very odd not hearing the word “cunt” every forty seconds. Still, I think Ritchie did a good job making a movie that was probably well outside his comfort zone — offhand, the only other movie I can recall that he’s done that doesn’t involve fast-talking British gangsters who swear more times a day than you or I blink is Swept Away, and we all know how well that turned out.
There are a few mis-steps, beyond the weak villain. Some of the scenes were a bit too comical, and I’m pretty sure Doyle never mentioned in any of his stories that Watson was invulnerable to explosions and healed faster than the main playable character in a first-person shooter. Overall though, I enjoyed Holmes from start to finish and I’m glad to hear they’re planning a sequel.