Sherlock Holmes

Dir: Guy Ritchie
Star: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams

There's no denying that the creators have dragged Holmes, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the 21st-century. While there are fragments taken from many of the stories, gone are many of what have now become clichés, even firmly-embedded ones like the deerstalker hat. Instead, they've pounced on a couple of throwaway sentences and turned Holmes (Downey) into a fully-fledged martial artist, who takes part in underground bare-knuckle brawls, as shown on the right. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just be aware that this isn't the Sherlock Holmes you're used to. Here, his adversary is Lord Blackwood (Strong), a practitioner of the dark acts, who apparently manages to cheat the hangman's noose and rise from the dead, then prepares to seize power, with an updated version of the Guy Fawkes' Plot, using an infernal device to kill all those in Parliament who are not his supporters. It's up to Sherlock, with his long-suffering, often-complaining, but ultimately loyal companion Dr. Watson (Law), and the less-reliable help of international thief Irene Adler (McAdams) to stop the coup.

I ummed and ahhed over the rating here, uncertain whether to dock it for the wholesale rewriting of Holmesian history, to no other purpose than to appeal to a modern audience. On the whole, marginal credit is deducted, since the film wants to have its cake and eat it there. However, Law and Downey do a good job at capturing the essence of their characters and their relationship, though there is an entire subplot involving Watson's fiancée that never goes anywhere, is abandoned by the film-makers, and should not have been included since it's a complete waste of time. The two-fisted approach to the detective hero is enjoyable enough, with a couple of good battles standing out - one in a dockyard, the other high above the uncompleted Tower Bridge (even if, in this film's geography, it now appears to be next door to the Houses of Parliament!). In the end, it's acceptable entertainment, though compared to other recent cinematic "reboots", it probably isn't as successful.

[October 2010]

Elementary, my dear Watson
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