"Sherlock Holmes" is a fun and surprisingly faithful re-imagining of the world’s most famous detective. It may turn Holmes into a Victorian-era Jason Bourne, but it does so keeping a constant — if sometimes wandering — eye on Arthur Conan Doyle’s source material.
In the beginning of the movie we find Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his partner-in-crime-fighting, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), investigating the nefarious Lord Blackwood (the always awesome Mark Strong). Holmes and Watson capture Blackwood after he kills several young women in a bizarre and ritualistic fashion. However the duo is compelled back into action after Blackwood is tried, hanged and resurrected, with his iniquitous plans to dominate the world only momentarily thwarted.
On top of their desperate search for Lord Blackwood, Holmes and Watson must contend with the strain of bringing a third party into their relationship, in this case Watson’s intended, Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). The particular and eccentric Holmes is not sure he likes the idea of Watson’s attentions being pulled elsewhere. The fact that Watson is moving out of 221b Bakers Street does not sit well either.
Another unwelcome female addition to the tenuous Holmes/Watson bromance is Holmes’ old flame/worthy adversary Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). Adler is a tough and intelligent and has beaten Holmes at his own game twice before. She seems to be the only person who is capable of ruffling his truly impressive intellectual feathers.
Starring:Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly
As Holmes and Watson squabble and bicker their way through Victorian London’s dark corners, and in and out of trouble, it’s hard not to see their relationship as the original template for every buddy movie ever made. Like a 19th century version of Riggs and Murtaugh from "Lethal Weapon," they drive each other crazy and complete each other in equal measure.
Guy Ritchie work as director is inspired. He uses his patented hyper-stylized visuals, making the film feel a little rough around the edges, which is a welcome change from all of the super-polished CGI-fests that have become all the rage in Hollywood (I’m looking at you, "Pirates of the Caribbean").
Robert Downey Jr. is superb as Holmes. He easily captures the intelligence, idiosyncratic nature and amazing deductive powers that make Holmes a great detective while embodying the petulance and selfishness that make it hard to be his friend and roommate. In that way, Holmes is not much different than Tony Stark, RDJ’s role from "Iron Man." Both Stark and Holmes are brilliant and particularly set in their ways. RDJ is at home playing quick-thinking men of action. An actor of uncommon intelligence, he seems to have found a comfort zone playing ridiculously smart men who don’t mind kicking a little ass every now and then.
But Holmes is only as good as his Watson and RDJ is well supported by Jude Law. Law plays exasperated very well and captures Watson’s annoyance and adoration for his best friend in equal parts. More importantly, RDJ. and Law have a nice well-worn chemistry. They easily sell the longevity of the relationship between Holmes and Watson.
While the film builds to a typical action-packed climax involving Parliament, fisticuffs and swordfights, it’s not enough to distract from the momentum and zany energy that mark the film’s first two acts.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes were always meant for mass consumption. Perhaps that is why the little tweaks here and there to make sure the character appealed to a modern audience didn’t matter so much. I think if Doyle had been writing his stories in today’s marketplace, Sherlock Holmes would probably look a lot like the more physical and brawling Holmes that RDJ plays. Holmes may throw a few more punches here, but he solves his case with the same intelligence and crystal-clear logic that marked Doyle’s original iteration of the character.
If this is your first or your 50th experience with the character, "Sherlock Holmes" proves to be an exciting and funny ride. And the film ends with a nice "Batman Begins"-esque tease for a sequel. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait long.
I love, love, love Jude Law and will watch this for my hotson Watson!