Originally Reviewed – 2/8/2010
To be fair, we’ve gotten to a point where Robert Downey Jr. can do no wrong. After revitalizing his career with Iron Man and getting an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder, Downey has been on quite a roll as of late. Enter director Guy Ritchie, whose career arc matches Downey’s to a certain degree. After a few disappointing films, Ritchie needs a strong one to get his career back on track.
So what better way to do so than mix the charm of Robert Downey Jr. with Guy Ritchie’s kinetic filmmaking style in a reboot of a classic franchise. The result is Sherlock Holmes, an imperfect but highly entertaining action / adventure film that turns the thoughtful sleuth into an ass kicking, swashbuckling detective that’s more Pirates of the Caribbean than the classic character.
In the role of Mr. Holmes, Downey essentially plays the same character he does in Iron Man, giving the usually stoic character a bad boy jolt to go with his logical mind. The combination worked in Iron Man and it works in Holmes but I hope Downey isn’t typecasting himself, as he truly is an excellent character actor. The other side of the duo is Jude Law, playing the more traditional Dr. Watson in a part that essentially has him sighing at Downey’s behavior and chiming in witticisms when the script allows. Law plays the part adequately but he doesn’t have much room to maneuver in playing the straight man to Downey’s high octane Holmes. Still, Law does a fine job with what he has to work with.
Unfortunately, neither Downey nor Law has much dramatic room to work with in a script that files from one action scene to another without too much meat in between. The moments of detective work offer some nice surprises and “aha!” moments, but the bulk of the film is spent fighting minions, dodging band saws and destroying shipyards. That being said, the action is one the film’s strongest features with each scene full of excitement, thrills and moments of hilarity that really move the film along. Guy Ritchie’s electric style comes on full force in these scenes that are well choreographed and very enjoyable.
The rest of the films direction works just fine in moving the story along, which involves dark magic and political corruption in Victorian England. The story, while very far fetched in some moments, serves the main characters well and gives us a chance to see Holmes and company unearth the mystery in an interesting setting. The film also features very nice cinematography, especially when the camera sweeps over landscapes and half finished landmarks.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes, while doing little to capture the quiet charm of the original character, is a vibrant and exciting film that features excellent action and great acting by Robert Downey Jr. Long time fans may hate the souped up version of the classic character, but I felt enough of the original was kept intact to make this truly Sherlock Holmes not Iron Man 1.5. Ritchie may not have another Snatch on his hands, and it’s nowhere near the level of this summer’s Star Trek, but as far as big budget action films go, this one is well worth the price of admission.
Score – 70%