Review by Jack Foley
GUY Ritchie’s action-packed revival of Sherlock Holmes thrives on the chemistry between leading men Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law.
It’s also visually spectacular, often highly amusing and good knockabout fun, even though the intellect of previous outings seems to have fallen by the wayside.
Ritchie and co (including writer-producer Lionel Wigram) insist that this ‘revival’ isn’t so much a re-invention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved detective, but a return to source.
In original literary form, Holmes did dabble in martial arts and was equipped to deal with violence, while Watson – his companion – was much more his equal.
There were also no mentions of the deerstalker hat and term “elementary” that are now virtually synonymous with the character.
Hence, the lack of such trademarks and the greater emphasis on action is not to the detriment to the movie. Rather, it embellishes the popcorn feel and provides for a more contemporary feel, albeit that the action is still set in Victorian London.
In Downey Jr, Holmes also comes equipped with a quick wit and a free-flowing charisma and edginess that’s more broadly appealing, while Law’s Dr Watson gives as good as he gets, both in banter and when trading blows with adversaries.
The result is highly engaging, if flawed in places.
The plot, which finds Holmes and Watson pitted against a sadistic killer – Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood – who claims to have resurrected himself from the dead with a grand plan for world domination using the dark arts, is more Scooby-Doo than Conan Doyle and forgets to allow Strong the time needed to really create a formidable foe.
While the lead characters’ relationships with the women in their lives – Rachel McAdams’ possibly turncoat Irene Adler and Kelly Reilly’s Mary – also suffer from a lack of attention.
The background presence of Moriarty also feels like a tease that’s been designed to set up the possibility of further ventures.
But the movie is saved by the effortlessly entertaining chemistry that exists between Downey Jr and Law (re-discovering career best form), which plays like an odd couple bro-mance come buddy movie.
Ritchie’s eye for a set piece also ensures that the movie’s big moments are delivered with flair and bone-crunching intensity, with a prolonged fight at a docklands and a terrific explosion among several highlights.
For all its flaws, therefore, Sherlock Holmes is a feel-good crowd-pleaser that makes the possibility of further outings for its central duo a hugely appealing prospect. And that really is an elementary accomplishment!
Running time: 2hrs
UK DVD & Blu-Ray Release: May 17, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Robert Downey Jr interview
- Mark Strong interview
- Jude Law and Kelly Reilly interview
- Sherlock Holmes Concept Art Gallery
- Guy Ritchie interview
- Lionel Wigram interview
- View Sherlock Holmes photos
- Sherlock Holmes UK Premiere photos