Rewatched Aug 28, 2012
Tony Black’s review:
I've gone a little bit cold on the first of Hollywood's fresh take on Sherlock Holmes, after lapping it up at the cinema (and greatly enjoying the sequel I might add). Not because I've watched the highly-rated BBC series which people bafflingly seem to compare this to (they couldn't be more different for the same subject matter - and for the record I've only seen one of them) but rather despite being very easy on eye, full of vim and vigour and with all the players quite clearly having a hell of a time, Guy Ritchie's movie is a touch overlong, a narrative jumble and ultimately a bit too hollow.
Now I'm no authority on Holmes at all - I've read maybe one Conan Doyle tale, seen very few adaptations on TV or at the cinema and know hardly anything of note about Sherlock's world, so to some extent I can come at Ritchie's film from an outside perspective. Like I say, I loved it first time around, so why have I not had such a good time for the second? Perhaps because once you get past the fun, its flaws are all too apparent. The fun, however, is indeed beguiling - Robert Downey. Jr has one of those typically American British accents, effective but too clipped (see Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft) but he's a charming, eccentric and loveable Sherlock; you can believe him as a man blessed of supreme intelligence and logic skills as much as you can the action man the character is retro-fitted into here, which pushes the boundaries of Conan Doyle as I know them to breaking point but, well... they're executed so well it's hard to be churlish. Less effective is Jude Law - by no means a bad actor and indeed a very good fit for Dr. Watson, yet he's left out in the shade, too often second fiddle in terms of characterisation when we needed a little more than to see him lovesick or exasperated. Yet they're a good combination, sparking with necessary chemistry - needed because they're without doubt the only two main reasons to watch the movie, as just about is Rachel McAdams as THE woman, Irene Adler - nicely seductive, enigmatic and playful, if underused and too thinly drawn as a whole. I'm moving toward those hanging flaws now, starting with Mark Strong - great actor given a duff villain in Lord Blackwood, a conjurer who does little more than dress like Dracula, sit in the shadows and deliver tedious villainous speeches (he only comes alive in an early moment with Holmes). Tying in with Blackwood is the other major issue - the narrative. It all, naturally, falls together as we reach the climax and Sherlock lays it out, but it takes forever and a day to reach the logical conclusion of Blackwood's plan, Ritchie conning us into not noticing by throwing numerous action set-pieces at us. They're perfectly fun, quite effective at times, but they can't disguise the fact the story meanders for a good chunk - wasting Irene, as I say - before racing toward a conclusion that serves to prove the whole movie, to some extent, was just a preamble for the sequel as opposed to a strong story in its own right.
I'm perhaps being too harsh on Sherlock Holmes, at the end of the day a fun Hollywood blockbuster, or am I? There's no faulting the production design, beautifully recreating 19th century London in vivid detail, while this is easily the punchiest, sleekest movie Ritchie has done in years, filled with his trademark fast cuts, brawling and 'blokish' humour - and equally, Holmes & Watson themselves make for a great pair to spend time with. But given the pedigree Conan Doyle's creation holds when it comes to the tales he's involved in, this adaptation falls short of the mark. A bit too frothy when Holmes deserved more substance.