Sherlock Holmes

Photo sourced from the film's Warner Brothers website.

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.

The Stats:

Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Rated: PG-13

128 minutes.

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About Liz

Liz received her Bachelors in Media Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California before moving to Scotland where she received an M.Litt with Distinction in European Cinema at the University of Glasgow. She is currently in her second year of PhD research on gender, sexuality, and mobility in French and Spanish cinema at the University of Stirling. In May 2009, she developed Stilwell Film (now in its 3rd year), a non-profit which provides free entertainment and diversity through outdoor film screenings to southern Johnson County and northern Miami County, Kansas. In her spare time, she de-stresses by playing rugby, and recently began roller derby. When she was four, her favorite film was The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, this probably explains a lot. View all posts by Liz

2 responses to “Sherlock Holmes

  • Wil Emerson

    Liza…great review…my sentiments exactly regarding the paraody, the verbal sparring, the mental genius with physical ability to conquer his foes. Great Hollywood rendition of a historical character that lacks in this generations awareness quota. Wish ‘they’ would do a real hero like George Washington who should maxi, courage, conviction even at the early age of 16. What an action, principled story that would be.
    Bromance…a quirky phrase but hits the mark in my view. In reality, men seem to navigate toward other men who offer that kind of honest relationship and it doesn’t seem to be sexually driven. Sparring, joking, gut wrenching struggle, a show of sexual power in other relationships but still cling to each other for the real adventures in life. Most women would love to that that kind of relationship with a man.
    Anyhow…good luck with your PhD…and the movie world. What an interesting adventure!
    Cheers, Wil A Emerson (female) reviewer, author and a Downey fan, too.

  • Liz Thrilla

    Thanks! I think in the post-seth rogen/judd apatow era, bromance is the perfect description of Holmes and Watson’s relationship, and apparently the reviewer at People Magazine agreed–as I found out a few days after writing this.

    I hope you come back again. I’ll be putting up my review of Nine tomorrow. I first had to remove myself from the subject, as I left the theatre utterly offended. Now that I’ve calmed down, I think I can write something better than “Rob Marshall hates women!”

    -Liz

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