Sherlock Holmes Movie Review
Guy Ritchie looks for the first breakout hit of his career with Sherlock Holmes, a funny, action-adventure take on the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character. Having never attained mainstream appeal and after a long string of box office failures, Ritchie was a huge gamble for Warner Brothers to take - but the risk paid off. Sherlock Holmes is an entertaining, fast-paced action-adventure that is a must-see this holiday season.
There's never been any question about Ritchie's directing talent, as the Madonna ex has an eye for gritty, adrenaline-fueled action. But his style has generally been frenetic, not the kind one would normally use for a holiday tentpole set in 19th century London. Thankfully, the biggest question mark in the production has delivered a visually vibrant yet relatively toned down picture that offers plenty of crime solving, action, adventure and fun. Coming off a bitter divorce from his diva wife, Sherlock Holmes is a great Christmas present for Ritchie - and audiences.
Sherlock Holmes begins somewhat confusingly, as we are thrust into the tail end of a case that Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) have been hired to investigate. They save a woman from being sacrificed for some kind of dark ritual from Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who many believe has magical powers. Lord Blackwood is subsequently hung for his actions, but it's not long before his body disappears and it is rumored that he has returned from the grave. Holmes' former lover (Rachel McAdams) has also reappeared, looking to hire him for a job for some unknown third party.
The movie feels like you've been dropped into the middle of an incomplete story, and it takes a little while to get your bearings. But by the time the credits roll, it becomes clear that everything in Sherlock Holmes was done for a purpose; every element suddenly falls into place (in a way that only Sherlock Holmes could decipher for us), the clues revealing themselves along the way. The story is engaging and complex, one fitting for a Sherlock Holmes tale. Though the trailers wisely highlighted the action and witty dialogue, the movie has a good amount of deduction and crime solving; Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes is by no means your parents' detective caper, but it isn't some dumb-downed Hollywood production, either. The movie is smart, fast-paced and entertaining.
Though a good screenplay is key, the movie thrives on the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law. Both turn in excellent performances as they exchange fast, witty dialogue, dryly criticizing one another in what can only be described as an awkward "bromance" gone wrong. The result is truly satisfying entertainment. In fact, every actor in the film is given plenty of tongue-lashing dialogue to play with, to the point where it would be almost impossible for an actor not to have chemistry with one another. The dialogue flies so fast that it will likely take a second viewing to catch it all; Downey Jr. alone unleashes so many words it's hard to keep track.
Those looking for action, too, won't be disappointed. Sherlock Holmes isn't, by nature, an action film, but there are plenty of action sequences that get the adrenaline going. The official consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is "Guy Ritchie's directorial style might not be quite the best fit for an update on the legendary detective, but Sherlock Holmes benefits from the elementary appeal of a strong performance by Robert Downey, Jr.", but Ritchie's directorial style actually pays off. The action sequences, though different from those seen in other Ritchie sequences, are well done and exciting, and the director's willingness to walk us through each punch in slow motion like a fist-throwing genius like Holmes would do pays off big time.
Sherlock Holmes is by no means a flawless picture - though it's hard to say exactly what's off about it, it does lack a certain "Wow, I need to see this again" factor - the movie is a smart, craftily written and superbly acted action-adventure with plenty of entertainment value. Though it does have some sexual innuendo, the movie is surprisingly family friendly - and yet offers some brutally painful action sequences. Recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.