Release Date (UK) – 26 December 2009
Certificate (UK) – 12A
Country – UK
Director – Guy Ritchie
Runtime – 128 mins
Starring – Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
In this new Sherlock Holmes reboot – still set in 1890s London – legendary British director Guy Ritchie has departed from his usual gangster genre in various ways but has still managed to keep his signature in this action packed film. Sherlock Holmes is played (rather badly with annoying pop eyed facial expressions) by Robert Downey Jr. and Dr Watson is Jude Law. Holmes devotees will not enjoy the changes Ritchie has made to the characters – Holmes is still as egotistical as ever, living in complete chaos but no longer uses Cocaine and the plot lack of any real detective work which makes him hard to idolize. Meanwhile Dr Watson is much more assertive, but a chronic gambler and although the line ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ is never heard the film focuses much more on the relationship between them as Ritchie attempts a stab at a bromance movie rather than a straight out detective film.
Indeed, to speak of there is almost no detective plot for about an hour and a half until suddenly the rather easy puzzles are crammed into a last half hour of solutions and revelations. Seeing as barely anything actually happened before this its not that interesting, and the film would have worked much better if the detective work had focused around a small individual case rather than a world saving plot, but this was probably needed to get the rumoured $80 million budget from Warner Bros. The simplistic plot revolves around the evil murdering Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who seems to manipulate dark powers of black magic to rise from the grave after Holmes’ (unseen) detective work had got him hanged. Apparently this is enough to put Londoners into a panic stricken state although instead of focusing on this screen time is instead devoted to the obvious sexual tension between Holmes and Watson as Watson is imminently leaving the partnership to get married.
Holmes is much more of an aggressive and macho character than in Canon Doyle’s stories as Ritchie manages to get his trademark stylised action sequences in a series of back-room brawls that Holmes and Watson made side cash on. In slow motion Holmes voiceover plans out his punches before they are played out in real time, a technique that Ritchie fans will adore but this vicious Holmes may surprise and deter Holmes aficionados from the cinema. Eagle eyed Ritchie fans will also notice he slips in a bit of PR for his Mayfair pub as an old style punchbowl pub sign makes an appearance. However for Holmes fans there’s plenty of references to Doyle’s original stories – shooting out VR (Victoria Regina) in his flat wall and mentions of Irene Adler outwitting him before. For new younger viewers there’s not really enough story to interest them in a franchise that the film obviously is aiming for – and with Watson seemingly off to get married this means the next film will surely have to be a prequel. The abundance of historical accuracies in London may also peeve more serious viewers, from a basic ignorance of geography to the appearance of items like not-yet built statues.
There’s quite a lot of attempts at humour, mostly stemming from the sexual tension between the pair but unfortunately this is another case of best-jokes-are-in-the-trailer syndrome. For light hearted viewers and Ritchie fans this is a fair enough movie, but some may be dissapointed with the lack of gore and extreme violence. But for Holmes worshippers and more serious cinema goers there are far too many faults to find and a prioritisation of superfluous relationships and focus on 221B baker street over detective work and plot will infuriate. Trailer below but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the jokes!