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Sherlock Holmes - a pleasant surprise
Sherlock Holmes (DVD)
Member Name: jesperado
Sherlock Holmes (DVD)
Advantages: Downey Jr is excellent as Holmes, good pace and enjoyable
Disadvantages: The baddie is not quite scary enough
As a big fan of both Robert Downey Jr and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, when I heard that Downey Jr was to play the illustrious detective I was excited but a little surprised by the choice. Upon hearing that the film was to be directed by Guy Ritchie, I prepared myself for the worst. I don't hate his films but they are all very similar and a bit 'style over substance' for my liking and I couldn't see how his style would do justice to the great detective stories.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. It was thoroughly enjoyable and Ricthie's style actually worked quite well with the story. He managed to capture the grimness of the criminal underworld of Victorian London really well but retained a wit and humour that was actually very true to Conan Doyle's stories. I was wondering how he was going to portray Holmes' process of deductive reasoning - these are often written in long conversations between Holmes and Watson or explained by Watson alone in the stories - but Ritchie found quite a clever way of showing this without characters being overly verbose. He used the slowed down fight sequences customary in his films such as Snatch (remember the slow motion knockout of Brad Pitt's character?) and used a voiceover by Holmes explaining the exact series of blows he was using to defeat a man twice his size. Once you get past the gratuitousness of the bare-knuckle boxing scenes, you realise that they are a handing way of showing exactly how Holmes can seemingly outwit anyone like a chess master who is always a number of moves ahead of his opponent.
Robert Downey Jr's superb comic timing and eccentric mannerisms make him a good fit as Holmes although his stifled English accent does grate a little. His ability at slapstick is put to good use in a number of scenes although some of these scenes feel a little unnecessary and showy. I was surprised to enjoy Jude Law's performance as Watson as well as usually I find that he overacts a little but this was a restrained performance that provided a nice contrast to Downey Jr as Holmes. Mark Strong gives a decent but slightly limp performance as Lord Blackwood, a peer whose dabblings in occult appear to have given him dangerous powers. For a character who is supposed to be sinister and threatening, Blackwood never really gets going with any great menace which undermines the story just a little. Rachel McAdams is excellent as Irene Adler, the only woman ever to outsmart Sherlock Holmes and who, for this reason, he finds utterly captivating.
There are many enjoyable crosses and double-crosses in this film and the pace is kept up throughout. The main characters are believable and solid. I particularly like the way in which Watson is shown as a man who is always putting his life on the backburner to help his flamboyant best friend. Sherlock Holmes' drug use is hinted at but not overplayed which is a relief as I half expected Guy Ritchie to have his protagonist snorting coke off prostitutes but he actually showed a remarkable deal of restraint in this area.
Towards the end of the film, Moriarty inevitably gets mentioned but is only shown in the shadows. This was an excellent choice by Ritchie rather than revealing too much too soon. I found myself really hoping for this to be the start of a series of Sherlock Holmes films which to me is the mark of a good adventure film.
Summary: A thoroughly enjoyable film with some very good performances