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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes (12A) ★★★
Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.

There have been many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes so I was interested to see what Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jnr could bring to the table. Well it's different to previous Holmes but is it in a good way?

Guy Ritchie has plied his trade in making movies based on the London underground mob scene and dodgy cockney geezers, (lets forget Swept Away which I'm sure Ritchie would want you to do) so its no surprise that Sherlock Holmes stays on fairly similar ground.

The story is as straight forward as they come, A villain being pursued by Holmes with a plot to other-throw the government, corrupt politicians and a supernatural force at work, that's it, nothing new there then. So its because the storyline is so straight forward the film has to rely on the strength of the characters and how they are portrayed. Step forward Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law.

Downey Jnr plays Holmes as a gritty, unhinged genius, who has little or no people skills and a borderline drunk who engages in bare knuckle fighting to absolve himself of any guilt that he has ultimately brought on himself. Its a nice twist to the Holmes character mixed with similar traits like being able to read a person just from a quick glance and judge what to do next, the brief and under used fight scenes are a highlight. You do engage with Holmes but he still remains a very distant character, I can see people either loving him or finding him irritating and arrogant, I found him a little of both truth be told.

Jude Law plays Doctor Watson, a counter-balance to the Holmes character and brings grounded reality and likeability to his audience. While Holmes is at odds with everyone and everything Watson deals with them in a calm methodical manner befitting his title of Doctor. Its a role that many actors would have seen as simply second fiddle to Holmes but to be fair Watson more than holds up his side of the partnership, not afraid to get into a fight and at times beating Holmes to certain conclusions, its a credit to the script writer to write him this way as the Watson character could have been a nothing role. Its also testament to Law's ability and portrayal of Watson that he almost, if not, steals the show from Downey Jnr.

Mark Strong plays Lord Blackwood, the sinister villain with standard menace and steely glare but nothing more really. I feel its a character that they could have done more with, everyone loves a villain that has personality and looks to be enjoying himself (Alan Rickman anyone?), Strong doesn't and its play by numbers theatre villainy which to be honest is boring. Rachel McAdams is thrown in as a old love interest of Holmes but doesn't bring anything to the movie and its only a matter of time before she becomes the 'damsel in distress' which you'll see coming a mile off. Its Holmes and Watson though that you'll be more interested in and the partnership grows as the film progresses.

Ritchie directs the whole thing smoothly, lets the action flow and refrains from going into the over-the-top characters and dialogue we've seen in previous outings which would have just seemed ridiculous in this movie. Its also refreshing to see that he doesn't go overboard on the special effects, yes there are obviously effects in the movie but nothing in your face and there for effects sake. I keep banging on about character development and the story in films being most important and Ritchie seems to know this too and this is reflected throughout even though I'm sure he would have been given the budget.

I liked Sherlock Holmes, I wouldn't say its great but its certainly enjoyable. I just wished they'd gambled a little bit more on the story and given Holmes something to really get his teeth into. They've tried something different with the character so why not move the story in the same direction? Although Sherlock Holmes 2 has been greenlit so I may just get my wish.


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