Film Reviews

SHERLOCK HOLMES

By • Dec 15th, 2009 •

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Great, energetic fun! Guy Ritchie is back and delivers a strong, gay romance. McAdams and Reilly are in the way of the “bromance”. Entire production excellent.

When I saw ROCKNROLA I said: Who is Mark Strong? Even Gerard Butler could tell Strong was walking away with the movie’s sex appeal. So, it came as no surprise that Ritchie cast Strong as the aristocratic villain in SHERLOCK HOLMES.

Downey, Jr., following George Clooney’s sage wisdom of not wearing film makeup, looks his age and gives his Sherlock Holmes (SH) the decadent frown lines of a man who has lived through keen observation of others but neglectful interest in grooming himself for the pleasure of others. He does find the quirks of others – the corny word “deduction” – fascinating.

Let’s face it: As Ritchie sees him, SH is an upper-class snob. He’s Lord Bryon with a job.

Holmes lives with Dr. Watson (Jude Law) and is miserable that the desirable Dr. Watson is leaving and getting his own place. He’s openly jealous of Dr. Watson’s inamorata, Mary (Kelly Reilly). In fact, when he finally meets her, he embarrasses her with facts about her less-than-stellar pedigree. The caste system was blooming in Victorian England.

“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.” George Bernard Shaw

SH and Dr. Watson speak a form of English most commonly associated with the upper class and is called “Received Pronunciation” (the Queen’s (or King’s) English”). (Of interest: Today only approximately two percent of Britons speak RP. It has been argued that RP use is socially advantageous over other English dialects within England but carries no “special privileges” outside England.)

Why is Dr. Watson interested in Mary instead of him? SH wants that damn engagement ring to disappear, and it does! The real reason SH is a depressed, sullen mess is he is losing Dr. Watson. Dr. Watson is sensible but torn. He needs to free himself from SH’s lair.

As Ritchie directs them, their flirtatious banter is one step away from an affair – if only Mary would die! And Downey, Jr. and Law clearly know what glances, smiles, and a director’s positioning means to an audience. Law knows exactly how to play seductive but skittish.

At least Ritchie did not put them in a bathtub together.

SH and Dr. Watson have successfully prevented Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from sacrificing another virgin in a Black Arts ritual. Once again they have frustrated Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) by handling the arrest without Scotland Yard intervention. (I loved Marsan in the awful HAPPY-GO-LUCKY)

Lord Blackwood will be hanged, but he wants – not a last meal – but a visit from SH.

Coincidentally, a new case, brought to SH by former lady friend and con-artist, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), has a link to Lord Blackwood. Adler will make the perfect foil to make Dr. Watson jealous.

At least that is the way I saw it.

The only misstep in SHERLOCK HOLMES is Rachel McAdams. Ritchie’s distinctive “blokes and yobs only” style does not require the intrusion of women. But for a big film like SHERLOCK HOLMES, women are a necessary evil. Ritchie does McAdams no favors. She is not filmed well; her clothes, makeup and hairdo are uniformly awful. She is not luminous or a stunning distraction. Were her scenes filmed but later dumped?

(Directors often do this to make a star happy. Notably, Jack Nicholson’s rumored filmed but deleted scenes in THE DEPARTED and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE).

Did McAdams actually sign up for this minor role? She is a boring, uninteresting con artist. If only Irene had a little trollop in her.

Everything about the production is first-rate. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer must win an Academy Award! Philippe Rousselot, the cinematographer, and James Herbert, the film’s editor, give SHERLOCK HOLMES the Ritchie treatment.

Ritchie has, with the help of screenwriters Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg, updated the Sherlock Holmes mythology.

Downey, Jr. flaunts and pouts and Law is a perfect sidekick for him. Downey, Jr. has another franchise!

Ritchie cleverly shows us what SH does so well and, without teaching, helps us understand what a jacket smudge means.

Will there be a sequel? Of course. The specter of Dr. Moriarty (please cast, as rumored, Brad Pitt!) looms in the shadows at the end. Though I must ask: How many people buying tickets to SHERLOCK HOLMES know who the hell Dr. Moriarty is, and why should we care?

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One Response »

  1. “The games-a foot!!! To the cinema, Watson!!!!!!

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