Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

I admit I don’t know a whole lot about the Sherlock Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I may have read a few story books or seen a couple of TV shows about the super sleuth as a child, but on the whole my memory is pretty fuzzy.

Accordingly, when I watched the new film Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie, I didn’t have a pre-conceived notion of how the character was supposed to behave.  I understand a lot of old school fans may be quite appalled at the way Sir Conan’s creation has been butchered in this ‘re-invention’ (in the same way I was devastated with what Hollywood did with Astro Boy), but I didn’t have such a problem.

With that in mind, I quite liked it!  That’s saying a lot because I haven’t liked a Guy Ritchie film since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (and I didn’t even like that very much).

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But thankfully, Ritchie did not directly apply his usual disorganised, quick-cutting style to Sherlock Holmes.  There’s still some of that rapid editing, but Ritchie kept it under control enough to prevent it from getting irritating and disorientating.  The end result is a slick, entertaining 2-hour feature with a lot of wit, a fair dash of humour, and plenty of action.

One of my favourite things about the film is how it embodied that old London feel – applying that grey, damp, dirty look to London’s streets and best known landmarks (many of which I had recently visited during my stay in the UK).  The sets and special effects were terrific, making that world appear realistic without diverting attention from the focus of the story.

I don’t want to reveal the plot, but I will say that it’s a pretty decent mystery with a supernatural slant to it.  There are also a few loose ends which will most likely be tied up in a sequel (and based on box-office stats it appears sequels will be forthcoming).

The performances were awesome.  Robert Downey Jr has demonstrated time after time that he is capable of playing just about any character with conviction.  To me, he is a wonderful Sherlock Holmes.  He may not be much like the one described in the original books, but he makes the character his own and runs with it.  Clever, resourceful, funny and action hero – Downey Jr is all of these things.

And of course, no Sherlock Holmes would be complete without Dr Watson, and Jude Law is a great complement to Downey Jr.  The chemistry between the two actors is undeniable.  From the witty banter to the more physical action scenes, Law is the perfect sidekick – crucial but not thunder-stealing.

On the other hand, as much as I love Rachel McAdams, she felt a little out of place here.  She’s not bad (and always pleasing on the eye), but she was a little too underused in my humble opinion.  Hopefully if there are sequels she will get a more prominent role and we’ll get to learn more of her history with Holmes.

Overall, a surprisingly solid, smarter-than-average popcorn movie.  There were a few slightly slower moments about half-an-hour into the film, but for the most part it managed to grab my attention.  If this is the first of a new franchise then I’ll certainly be looking forward to more Sherlock Holmes adventures in the future.

3.75 stars out of 5!

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