Friday, January 29, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The films of Guy Ritchie could never be accused of lacking style. Substance maybe, but they have always appeared slick with their suave characters and unique use of fast and slo-mo cutting. Such is the case with Sherlock Holmes. A striking looking film that fires along at a pace we can only expect (and want) of the British director. Like many of the diatribes churned out by the titular character, Holmes is streamlined, hilarious and, possibly surprisingly, curse free. Despite holding back slightly, it still does have his usual education in violence, but overall, works as a generation crossing blockbuster.

In what is possibly one of the few times when the term, ’perfect casting’ can be used, Robert Downey Jr. seems almost born to become modern cinema’s 19th century sleuth. His wit and swagger filling the screen as much as the impressive production design. Jude Law proves no slouch or indeed, no envy opposite the leading man either, playing Dr. Watson with a confident familiarity making the camaraderie between the two seem even more authentic. Their chemistry is fantastic, making the film extremely watch able.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast can barely reach the standard of the two leads, but it is hardly at fault of their own. Rachael McAdams’ Irene Idle plays the love interest with an agenda well enough, but then, is restricted by her material. Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood has a good presence, but again, little to work with. His clich├ęd villainousness holds little water amongst the rest of the clever script. Seems so much was put into making Holmes and Watson hilarious and superior to the world little time was given to the bad guy’s dialogue or motives. His whole cause feels lacklustre. Even Blackwood’s foremost defiance atop a jaw dropping vision of a half completed London Bridge is still overshadowed by Holmes’ quick-witted deductions played out in Richie’s typically cocaine-infused style. Sure, it’s the detective’s show, but a little balance would have helped. The only supporting players given any real potential end up being Eddie Marsan’s Inspector Lestrade, while the mysterious Professor Moriarty does provide ample curiosity for the expected sequel.

Possibly, it is not exclusively what I expected, but then what the expectations are and what we finally get, can sometimes be a fine line. Unfortunately, as seems to be the case with the more recent output of the director, several problems prevent it from being a complete success. None of which take away from the fun and exuberance of Holmes however, and by the time the creative credits roll, it stands as probably his most engaging film since Snatch, with enough set pieces for the masses to embrace.

Not being familiar with the original literature, comparisons (by me) are by and large irrelevant, but as an avid watcher of films, I think it is always best to be aware of who is the creative force behind them. Guy Ritchie has sent a statement to Hollywood with Holmes that he is capable of producing a fun night at the movies without compromise. Narrative and script issues notwithstanding, its pure entertainment, old boy.

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