Sunday, December 27, 2009
Those faithful to the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or the black and white film series starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as John Watson will undoubtedly be flummoxed by the Guy Ritchie version of the genius detective and his loyal physician friend. Ritchie is worlds removed from Victorian era London, the original setting for Doyle's stories, and the influence of contemporary films like the Harry Potter and Matrix series, and the use of cheesy CGI effects and slow motion fight sequences muddle his attempt to modernize a classic.
Still, the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson works so well. Ritchie's films are typically male-centric but in Sherlock Holmes the two leads share so many of the scenes with just each other, it's essential that they share real chemistry. The former girlfriend and fiancée, played respectively by Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly, add little to the already convoluted story, and nothing to the sharp repartee and playful mischief between Downey Jr. and Law. Girls, there's just no competing with a man's best friend who will bail him out of jail, pay his gambling debts, follow him into dark alleys and share battle with greasy thugs.
Regrettably, beyond the inspired pairing of Downey Jr. and Law, the writers struggle with a cohesive story but maintain a frantic pace with fights and explosions galore. After 120 minutes, Downey Jr. is burdened by his summary of the preposterous 'case', which sounds a lot like the recap at the end of every 'Scooby Doo' cartoon mystery. While that sort of exposition breaks every rule of effective writing, his appeal and talent will likely persuade a sequel.