Movie review: Sherlock Holmes
December 29, 2009
BY ADI JONES
The new ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is a truly modern adaptation that derives very little from the original master sleuth. Robert Downey, Jr. plays a sharp-minded, genuinely clever, Holmes who dabbles in boxing and alcohol with equal gusto. Jude Law co-stars as Watson, portrayed here as Holmes’ equal on many levels — not the bumbling buffoon found in earlier movie versions. There is clear tension between the two early in the plot — Watson has made it clear that he is moving out of 221-B Baker Street for a more normal life with fiancee Mary.
The inspired casting of Downey and Law gives us hope initially that this will be an entertaining and witty romp Downey almost always tends to bring something good out of the worst (remember “Tropic Thunder?”) However, the promise quickly fades with a thick and convoluted plot. Lord Blackwood, a prominent British citizen with a flair for magic, is being hunted down for the murder of five young women. Holmes and Watson work together using their brilliant minds to bring him to justice.
The opening sequence immediately grabs your attention and you think ‘Okay this is gonna be good.’ Well, don’t get too excited. After they arrest Lord Blackwood for murder and performing ‘black magic,’ things get very “Talk-y.” They jump right into Watson’s engagement and Holmes meets Mary. Then Irene Adler (the poorly-cast Rachel McAdams) comes into the picture and things for Holmes get a bit more complicated. Adler wants him to do a job for her: find someone who was working for Blackwood.
As they go deeper into the Blackwood mystery, things just get more and more complicated, including a side trip to a meat processing factory. There is very little action between the first big sequence and the somewhat anti-climactic ending. There is a lot of “CSI” style investigation, one big long line of clues that somehow equals the capture of the “bad guy” and the reveal of how all of his tricks worked. It’s all very reminiscent of “National Treasure” and we all remember how utterly HORRIBLE that was. You want “Sherlock Holmes” to be so much more, but it just falls flat for much of the movie. Too bad.
There are entertaining moments in “Sherlock Holmes” and there is no denying the chemistry between Downey and Law. You might feel less disappointed if you were to catch this as a matinee, or wait for the video. Downey’s take on Holmes is almost — almost — enough to justify the cost of a ticket.
The script (co-written by Morro Bay writer Anthony Peckham) is clever and witty in places, but there is just too much going on at once. Too much talking and not enough action, but with as many screenwriters as they had on this project, it is to be expected. The writers leave the ending open to a sequel, so perhaps they will get their act together and pull off an industry first. A sequel that is better than the original. It’s possible.