Theatrical Review: SHERLOCK HOLMES

Rusty Gordon

by: Rusty Gordon
December 22nd, 2009

Sherlock Holmes poster

Rating: 8/10

Writers:Michael Robert Johnson , Anthony Peckham, & Simon Kinberg (screenplay), Lionel Wigram & Michael Robert Johnson (screen story), Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams
Studio: Warner Bros.

It's been a long time since Guy Ritchie has had a real hit as a director. Consider ROCKnROLLA, a film that played like a far less interesting, recycled version of SNATCH. Perhaps after SWEPT AWAY and REVOLVER (both failures critically and at the box office), Ritchie was trying to achieve success again by re-doing what made him such an intriguing director when he was the man whose only feature films included LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH.

After multiple unsuccessful films, Ritchie chooses to make a SHERLOCK HOLMES film, an idea I was actually fairly excited about. One major reason was that it would be hard for Ritchie to pull a ROCKnROLLA, and recycle his past success. Also, SHERLOCK HOLMES would be the first feature Ritchie only directed. Ritchie's screenwriting has clearly been failing him, but his skills as a director could still be very capable. And it turns out that Ritchie still has it as a director, as SHERLOCK HOLMES is an exciting (enough), nicely paced film that benefits from Guy Ritchie being the man behind the camera.

Of course, Ritchie does get quality help when it comes to this film version of the iconic character of Sherlock Holmes. The screenplay by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg is sharp and focused, and understands that this is the first entry in what will likely be a film franchise. We get an interesting, but not annoyingly complex or over-stuffed screenplay, that features a new Holmes villain named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong). This SHERLOCK HOLMES has been updated with current cinematic sensibilities as we get to enjoy a sly, wise-cracking action film with enough mystery elements to make it legit (this is SHERLOCK HOLMES, after all).

Another smart move within Ritchie's SHERLOCK HOLMES flick is that those behind the film realize that the general public is knowledgeable enough with the character that we don't need a big initial introduction or a ton of back story. We know the key characters and can connect several basic dots for ourselves, and this keeps the film from getting tied up in the history of its source material. We don't have to chew through set-up vegetables before we get to the entertaining meat of the story.

Obviously, the casting with a SHERLOCK HOLMES film is critical, even more so than in most other films. If the legendary and well-known title character isn't brought to captivating life through the lead performance, then the film fails. You cannot have a good Sherlock Holmes story with a mediocre Holmes, it won't work. It is Holmes' world, and he must shine or everything else will be a waste. The man given the task of portraying Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey, Jr., has the wit and pure acting talent to pull off this latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, and he does so wonderfully.

Almost as key to the casting of Holmes is that of his assistant, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). Another decision that proves brilliant, with Law giving us a feisty, relatable Watson. Law and Downey Jr. also have great chemistry together, and play well into the feuding-brothers way that their relationship is drawn.

Guiding the film, Ritchie makes sure to keeps things lively, and he gives the film a nice visual look. However, Ritchie never lets his style get in the way of the story, and thankfully doesn't feel the need to constantly remind us that this a Guy Ritchie movie (unlike a certain director, whose recent film I'm still not allowed to talk about).

This SHERLOCK HOLMES is an amusing film adaptation of the popular character. It also lets us know that Guy Ritchie still has it, at least when it come to directing.

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  • EllaB86

    Great review. I have read some really bad reviews of this movie recently. So thanks you. i'm actually very excited to see this movie. It looks awesome! I have been playing the online game – http://www.221b.sh – it was released as a hype building mechanism for the movie and it is surprising gripping!

  • EllaB86

    Great review. I have read some really bad reviews of this movie recently. So thanks you. i'm actually very excited to see this movie. It looks awesome! I have been playing the online game – http://www.221b.sh – it was released as a hype building mechanism for the movie and it is surprising gripping!

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