Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes- An Entertaining Yet Unfulfilling Stylish Take on the Iconic Detective

“Data, data, data Gentlemen I cannot make bricks without clay,” states the arrogantly charming investigative genius that is Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie’s take on the iconic detective. If it weren’t for the acting and personality capabilities of Downey Jr. then Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t have been what it eventually becomes, which is an above average mystery thriller that contains wit, charm, mysticism, and, of course, some action. While not everything works in this film it does show that Guy Ritchie can finally apply his craft and technique for cinema to tell other people’s stories rather than depending on his dwindling talents for writing exceptional material. This isn’t to say that Guy Ritchie isn’t a talented writer but no one can aptly say that Revolver and RockNRolla were up to the standards he set for himself after Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. There are elements of Ritchie’s style in the more subjective moments when Holmes figures out how to take down foes but leaves the entire frame of the film once the story has to hurry up and finish. This is probably the worst part of the film and that is it’s convoluted story, written by over six people, tends to get lost in itself while playing catch up a great deal of the time making it seem as though the story is pieced together rather than with kinetic flow. It’s a well written story, with appropriate twists and realizations that will make your head spin, but as a truthfully engaging mystery it ends up falling just a bit short. However, Downey Jr.’s performance is enough to charm the socks off of any doubter that this modern-esque Holmes could not have been done.

Guy Ritchie’s Holmes isn’t necessarily one that hasn’t been done before considering that over 70 actors have played the character in varied performances and accentuations. However, the technique displayed here does tend to bring a different version of the character visually while also adding a depth to his psyche as a puzzle solver in times of high pressure. The potential for this aspect of the character isn’t greatly explored throughout the film but rather in minor blips, which unfortunately keeps the detective aspect of the character at a distance from the audience. Instead of allowing us to attempt figuring out the mystery for ourselves the story ends up dictating to the audience, which doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable it just means it’s more on display for us to enjoy rather than be a part of. This tale of mysticism versus science isn’t necessarily new nor does it explore any territory to be original in regards to the Sherlock Holmes vault but it doesn’t appear to be disengaging. At the core of the story is a Lord Blackwood played vibrantly yet villainously familiar by Mark Strong who, after being captured by Holmes, rises from the dead just a day later from his public execution. Holmes now must figure out whether the facts lead to a particular theory or if everyone else’s theory and speculation on demons and black magic is true. The interweaving of fact versus speculation is the interesting factor to this story and while the film treats the audience as a spectator rather than an element to be confused and manipulated the story inevitably delivers its expected results.

A Sherlock Holmes tale wouldn’t be the same without the trusty sidekick Dr. Watson and Ritchie’s choice for the role with Jude Law is an interesting one. Jude Law is not only a mentally capable Watson he also matches Holmes in his physical nature too. This new take certainly doesn’t take away from the story and, in fact, increases the humorous interplay between Watson and Holmes since they are practically duplicates. Of course the playing up of the homoerotic insinuations gets a tad tiresome since they kept this part of Holmes personality while sacrificing others. As we all know Holmes was an avid cocaine user yet this was entirely removed from the script most likely for ratings reasons and that is a tad disappointing. Another sacrificed aspect is the classic cap and the always using the pipe at crime scenes, which is hinted at but never exploited. However, it was a great choice to expand on the mere mentioning in some of the books that Holmes dabbled in boxing and was an aspect Ritchie couldn’t have passed up. But the relationship between Holmes and Watson is an essential piece to this detective story that needed to be precise and to be sure Jude Law rivals Downey Jr. in most of the scenes keeping up the pace. What is unfortunate for the film is that everything hinges on Downey Jr.’s performance, which balances humor, intellect, and arrogance so well that the film as a whole is a tad flat in comparison especially when one includes some of the flaws.

A major obstacle in tackling the iconography of Sherlock Holmes is having his intellectual and sexual double known to many as Irene Adler played in the film by a contemporary Rachel McAdams. While Ms. McAdams can generate a feeling of young and in love in The Notebook or of a frightened innocent girl in Red Eye there is something profound that is missing in her acting capabilities for Irene Adler. Someone who is supposed to be cunning and exceptionally sexy comes off as mildly provocative and distracting. While Law’s Watson is able to match Holmes cleverness McAdams’ Irene, who is supposed to be the female alter ego of Holmes, doesn’t match up at all and in fact brings down the interactions in each scene she’s in. Another mild flaw are the proxies of Lord Blackwood the minions so to speak. They are unfortunately incompetent and lack a general feeling of opposition for Holmes who always is one step ahead never allowing for a bit of struggle when facing anyone other than Blackwood himself. Not everything works in Ritchie’s attempt at re-telling the classics of Holmes with his stylish technique but what does work is Downey Jr.’s Holmes and his interplay with this new and improved Watson with a decent oppositional force in Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood.

As the film comes to an end Holmes explains his logical progression to figuring out the entire framework of Blackwood’s plan and how it’s done shows how rushed and convoluted the script had become. Even when there are two writers on a certain script things tend to get a bit complex but this one had six with even director Guy Ritchie taking a stab at it polishing up a few aspects of the story. Complex stories can be quite interesting but this script doesn’t present it to you in a complex manner rather they simply explain away some minor inconveniences to hold it all together. While they show minor glances into how Holmes mind works it would have been better if the audience was allowed entry into this deep and intellectual mind more often and perhaps figuring out the clues by themselves, a mind game within an entertaining story. So as one thinks back on Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes one will see that is most definitely charming due to Robert Downey Jr. with spurts of entertaining action segments but certainly lacks the braininess and intellect that other Holmes films embraced. Sherlock Holmes is definitely a winter film that will entertain you but it certainly won’t make you think.

Grade: B-

One Response to “Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes- An Entertaining Yet Unfulfilling Stylish Take on the Iconic Detective”
  1. Juan Carlos says:

    You are a bit too harsh. I would have said it deserves a B+. Apart from the English accent which I feel is hard to follow, I actually enjoyed it.

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