Sherlock Holmes (Warner Bros., PG-13)

film_sherlock_sm.gifA movie can be overstuffed and frenzied but still entertaining.


A movie can be overstuffed and frenzied but still entertaining. That’s what I took away from this new big-screen version of the adventures of legendary detective Sherlock Homes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his beleaguered sidekick, Dr. Watson (Jude Law). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would probably be delighted to see the inventive art direction (by a big team headed by Niall Moroney) and wealth of detail director Guy Ritchie calls upon to recreate 19th-century London; the movie is visually quite astounding at times. The interiors are full of things to catch your eye, the panoramic London cityscapes even more so.

But this movie is exhausting. The dialogue is uttered in such rapid-fire fashion you can barely figure out what Downey is saying half the time, and the action scenes are at times relentless and confusing. Still, the actor seems to be having a good time, and Richie works him hard, knocking him every which way but out and keeping the character cool under pressure (true to his literary reputation). It’s Watson who does the worrying, especially when the evil Lord Blackwood (a charismatic Mark Strong) seems intent on carrying out a sinister plot to take over London with the help of some black magic. Blackwood doesn’t let a little thing like being hung for his murderous crimes stop him, either, and the townsfolk are scared witless when it appears there is no stopping this fiend.

But there’s no ace like Holmes, and despite the negative odds that only the hardiest of moviegoers will bother investing energy in thinking about it, there is seldom any doubt that our hero will figure things out. He is diverted a few times by a woman from his past, the alluring Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), and this leads to a few amusingly embarrassing predicaments. It also sets up a pretty spectacular chase and climactic set piece that demonstrates Ritchie’s cinematic bravado. I just wish the director had eased up here and there, and kept his apparent desire to launch an action franchise a bit more under wraps. There are fight scenes galore (occasionally with slow-motion treatments to depict Holmes mentally figuring out where exactly to deck his opponent), bits of tossed-off comedy, and that smidge of romance between Holmes and Adler, which never amounts to much. And there’s dialogue—lots and lots of fast, mumbled dialogue.

The pace of the film keeps things fairly absorbing, and I specifically enjoyed both the expansive score by Hans Zimmer and the impressive cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. But I’m not sure I fully bought into Downey’s performance; for one thing, I couldn’t hear him half the time. The movie seems to want to be an amusement park ride, and that doesn’t seem exactly right for a reimagining of an iconic British detective. But…whatever. There’s enough here to entertain most audiences, and there’s certainly enough twists and quirks in the plot to be engrossing in that sort of popcorn-movie way. But I felt like I’d eaten a large bag of candy and was starting to get cramps by the time I left this film. It also didn’t particularly make me want to go and read any Sherlock Holmes tales, and that’s probably something Sir A.C. would not have been pleased about. | Kevin Renick


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply