Sherlock Holmes, Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes); Jude Law (Dr. Watson); Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler); and Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood).
This 2009 reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes hit box offices with the tagline, “Nothing escapes him.” Well, maybe a few things did escape director Guy Ritchie including the notion that the allure of Holmes doesn’t need to come with an overdose of special effects that seem more at home in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
Brash, violent and filled with unending smack-downs, this recent addition to the long lineage of Baker Street mysteries seems hell-bent on pitting action vs. mystery. Ritchie, who fancies himself the crown prince of cool, prefers his Holmes as a punk. Brash, insubordinate and pin-balling from one kinetic fight to another. Too much of a good thing, is a mystery that Ritchie has yet to solve for himself.
Yet, despite the films addiction to action, Robert Downey, Jr., provides a unique portrayal of the fabled detective, Sherlock Holmes. He forsakes the sleuth’s famed deerstalker cap for a bowler which, unfortunately, is too reminiscent of Downey’s award-winning role as the Little Tramp, Charlie Chaplin.
Yet, Downey has a real sense of the tortured soul that often lies just undiscovered under Holmes’ skin. Holmes is a man who can see into the heart of darkness and solve crimes yet lives his personal life filled with impenetrable dark secrets and desires, not the least of them is drug addiction.
Downey has touted his Holmes by saying, “He’s a martial arts expert, a man of action and a ladies man” and this script has the legendary detective leaping in and out of boudoirs with wild abandon. When he’s not in the buff and chained to a bed, Holmes is dueling quips with his sidekick, Dr. Watson, portrayed by Jude Law, in between using martial arts to take down his adversaries.
Together, Holmes and Watson pursue Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) a serial killer who, in one of the film’s many plot twists, hangs for his crimes early in the film. Later, Blackwood mysteriously appears to have risen from the grave as a macabre leader of a voodoo cult plotting to takeover the Victorian-era British parliament.
In between grisly murders and fistfights, Holmes and Watson both find time for romance. Watson is planning to wed Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly) and leave his old friend in the lurch at their Baker Street flat. Holmes, on the other hand, has reignited his passion for ‘The Woman’, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first described Irene Adler. The beautiful Rachel McAdams takes on the role of Holmes’ femme fatale and she is hiding a lot more than silky legs under her petticoats.
Conan Doyle penned 60 tales of the “World’s Greatest Detective” in short stories and one novel and Holmes has appeared in more than 200 films. This latest addition sacrifices storytelling and mystery for non-stop action thrills, yet even the most stalwart Holmes’ fans will enjoy at least some of the film through erstwhile grumbling at the lack of authenticity. With the dramatic final reveal that Irene Adler had been working for Holmes' arch enemy, Professor Moriarty, you know that a sequel is in the works for this new Sherlock Holmes franchise. Elementary, my dear Watson.