Regardless of his troubled past, Robert Downey, Jr. has proved repeatedly that he is one of the greatest actors of his generation. Even with his pesky drug problem, he has managed to carve out a nice (if bumpy) career since the mid-1980s, and perhaps it was his problems that leads me to believe he was bornto play the equally troubled, but gifted, Sherlock Holmes. It is the ease in which Downey slips from one character to another that has endeared him as one of my favorite actors since I first saw Heart And Souls (Ron Underwood 1993), and his performance in Guy Ritchie’s take of the classic sleuth never ceases to entertain, even when the film seems to lag.
First, let me admit that the closest I’ve come to reading a Sherlock Holme’s story was watching Wishbone on PBS during the mid-90s, so I’m no expert on the characters. However, Downey manages to capture the soul of Holmes while bringing him into the 21st century. Not only does his Sherlock use his intelligence to solve crimes and out smart his foes, but to physically best them as well. This is shown in two early fights where the audience is taken through Sherlock’s mental plan of attack and then witnesses him take down his opponent by implementing his plans. While interesting, and a great way to marry the action to the genius, the second scene, was a bit gratuitous. It provided an interesting introduction to Rachel McAdam’s Irene Adler, and her lure over Holmes, but didn’t serve any pressing purpose to the plot.
Guy Ritchie, who’s cannon deals with crime lords and London’s underbelly, succeeds at bringing a gritty Victorian London to the screen, and providing plenty of action for a post-Iron Man Downey to work with. However, what impressed me the most with this film (aside from Jude Law finally proving he’s more than a pretty boy) was the wit, which, sadly, went over the heads of most the audience at my screening. The verbal sparring between Holmes and Watson was wonderful, and I was happy that this Watson dished out as much as he took, but the best thing about the pairing of Downey and Law was their ability to play up the homoeroticism, with out crossing into parody. The subplot involving Watson’s impeding engagement, not only prevented Watson from becoming a cartoon, but perfectly articulated one of the most famous “bromances” of all time.
Bottom line: the overly complicated plot and action dragged down the characterizations and performances from the leading men.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams