- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
uy Ritchie hasn’t exactly done a great job convincing his critics that he can make something other than the hyper-stylized crime capers he’s known for, so it’s a bit surprising that a major studio would entrust to him one of the most popular literary characters of all time. With that said, however, Ritchie has done a commendable job of reviving Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective on the big screen, even if the director's identity has been lost in the process. "Sherlock Holmes" is every bit the fun and action-packed romp we all hoped it would be, but while it's nice to finally see Ritchie with a mainstream hit on his hands, it still doesn't feel quite like a Guy Ritchie film.
Unlike most franchise reboots these days, the film opens with detective-for-hire Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) in the middle of their adventuring years. After closing their latest case with the capture of a murderous occultist known as Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), Holmes and Watson are thrown back into the mix when Blackwood mysteriously returns from the grave with a plot to take over England. Meanwhile, career thief Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) arrives in town asking for Holmes’ help with a related matter, but whether or not she’s a friend or foe is uncertain. And to make matters worse, Holmes might just have to do it all on his own, because Watson has decided to up and quit the business for a shot at married life.
The plot is actually a little more complicated than that, but it won’t make your head spin like some of Ritchie’s other films. While "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," “Snatch” and “RocknRolla” were all populated with unusually large casts of characters and multiple plotlines, “Sherlock Holmes” is pretty straightforward in the story it’s trying to tell. Still, there’s far more exposition than needed, and although it’s fun watching Holmes hop from clue to clue on his way to solving the mystery, the film would have moved a lot quicker without so many steps. In fact, Rachel McAdams’ character could have been completely cut from the film without affecting the story. Of course, Ritchie needs her there to set up the inevitable sequel, but aside from that, she doesn’t really bring anything to the movie. Mark Strong, meanwhile, does the best he can playing a very two-dimensional villain, but it’s definitely not one of his more memorable roles.
Fortunately, the film doesn’t need to rely on its supporting cast too much, because its two leads are absolutely fantastic in their respective roles. Robert Downey Jr. has been on a roll lately with films like “Iron Man” and “Tropic Thunder,” and though you could easily chalk up “Sherlock Holmes” as just another notch in a career littered with great characters, having someone with the wit and charm of Downey to play the quick-thinking detective is necessary in reaching a more mainstream audience. The actor will likely receive a lot of attention for the role, but without the balance that Jude Law’s Watson offers, it wouldn't have the same effect. Law may have been out of the spotlight for some time now, but his wonderfully downplayed performance as Holmes’ right-hand man is so good that the actor might just experience a renaissance of his own. Call it the RDJ Effect if you will, but these guys have such great chemistry that even though the movie drags at the end, you don't really mind as long as they're onscreen.
“Sherlock Holmes” may not be the kind of movie you’d expect from Guy Ritchie, but even though a lot of his trademark style is absent, his touch is still very evident – particularly in scenes where he slows down the action to explain in detail what’s happening (like Holmes’ first two fights) before going back to show it again in real time. Fans of his earlier films will likely look at “Sherlock Holmes” and view the director as a bit of a sellout, but that’s just being juvenile. Sure, it may not be as memorable as his other movies, but the dialogue snaps and the action sparkles, and that’s all you can really ask for from a movie that could have turned out very different without him at the helm.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
When a movie makes as much money as “Sherlock Holmes” did at the box office (certainly not “Avatar”-sized numbers, but still very respectable for its budget), you expect the studio to reward its audience with some cool DVD bonus features. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here, as Warner Bros. has only included a 14-minute making-of featurette called “Sherlock Holmes: Revisited” that, although not as shallow as the typical EPK, doesn’t go into nearly enough detail for being the only extra on the disc.