Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009)

Written by Michael Robert Johnson and Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg



Directed by Guy Ritchie


Where & When: Vista Theater, Los Angeles, CA. January 10, 2010 2:15PM



Guy Ritchie has made some decent, interesting films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla) and one really bad one (Swept Away) but I think he is a good film maker who has the potential to make a great film. His latest, "Sherlock Holmes" puts a modern twist to the classic character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I don't think this film is helping put Mr. Ritchie or Mr. Holmes in the right direction. In the many books and movies based on the character, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is a brilliant, clever and sophisticated investigator but now in this updated version, he is still a somewhat intelligent investigator but he is also an obnoxious, self centered jerk who gets his kicks from bare knuckled boxing and pushing people's buttons. His associate and close friend, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) still assists Mr. Holmes but now he has a gambling problem.

The story begins with Sherlock and Watson, working with Scotland yard, to stop Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from completing a human sacrifice. He is arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Before his execution. Lord Blackwood requests Sherlock's presence. He tells him that there will be three more deaths after his execution and this will change the course of the world. Lord Blackwood is hung and his death is confirmed by Dr. Watson.

Irene Adler, (Rachel McAdams) a woman with sticky fingers and an old romantic acquaintance of Sherlock's, needs his help in locating a red headed midget for a person she is working for. He declines her offer but disguises himself and follows her to find out who her employer is. He is not able to get a good look but determines that he is a professor.

Later, a yardman claims to have seen Lord Blackwood walking from his grave. Sherlock and the police go and open Lord Blackstone's coffin and discover a red headed midget in his place. Doing further investigating with Watson, Sherlock discovers that the midget was doing chemistry experiments, that Lord Blackstone was involved in an occult-like, secret society and that Lord Blackstone is very much alive and in between there is plenty of fighting, chasing and mayhem.

I have to admit I had some difficulty trying to figure out what was going on in this film but I felt better after talking to other people who had seen it and they said the same thing. I think part of the problem is that there were three separate writers on this project which doesn't help to make a coherent story. Thank goodness Sherlock Holmes explained what was going on at the end and tied all the very loose ends together.

This reloaded version of Sherlock Holmes is long on over the top fight sequences, gruesome murders and groan inducing comic moments but very short on fun, charm or an interesting detective story. This would have been perfectly fine if this was your typical action film but this is supposed to be based on a iconic character, so people are expecting a lot more.

Despite the settings and costumes, I did not for one minute feel we were in Victorian England. In fact, since this version of Sherlock Holmes is so far removed from Sir Doyle's character, it would have served the film better to just simply have placed this character in contemporary London. It certainly wouldn't have it a better film but it would have made more sense.

Mr. Downey Jr. and Mr Law do what they do best in this film but Ms McAdams is completely wasted in this. She is too talented to waste her time on a underdeveloped character, no matter how many zeros are at the end of her paycheck.

By selecting to make this big-budgeted, Hollywood film, it is clear that Mr. Ritchie was seeking commercial success, which I understand and he did ultimately manage to achieve that goal but what was sacrificed was his artistry and independent spirit that made his previous films, while not entirely successful but always interesting to watch.

Because of the financial windfall of this film, of course, there will be a "Sherlock Holmes 2" (that was also made clear by the presumptuous ending) and if Mr. Ritchie is involved in it, let's hope he takes this opportunity to do it right this time.