Holmes Loves Fight Club
I should think I am not in the minority when I say that prior to Guy Ritchie's 2009 vision of Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" I knew just the bare essentials of the character. By that I mean I knew he was a sleuth, he lived at 221B Baker Street and his partner was Dr. Watson but I had never read one of Doyle's stories or watched one of the previous movie and TV incarnations, or at least not all the way through. And so with that in mind it has to be said that Ritchie's update is entertaining, I don't know how true it is to Doyle's vision of what Holmes was like but the casting and writing of the character is great and so are all the characters. And the numerous actions scenes are just as entertaining, appealing to a modern audience who will enjoy the snappy, heavily stylized action especially when delivered with the slightest touch of humour. But sadly "Sherlock Holmes" becomes a treat for the eyes and not the mind as the story ends up playing second fiddle to the style to the point that following becomes tiresome in the same way that "The Da Vinci Code" became tiresome.
Having closed the case on a serial killer when they catch occult "sorcerer" Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) just as he is about to sacrifice a woman Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder) finds himself at a loose end whilst Dr. Watson (Jude Law - The Holiday) is busy with his fiancee Mary (Kelly Reilly). But they both find themselves back on duty when after he is hung and buried Lord Blackwood some how manages to rise from the grave and Scotland Yard need Holmes's help to not only recapture him but find out how. At the same time former lover Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) re-enters Sherlock's life wanting him to track down a missing person for her mysterious boss.
So I will get the one major problem with "Sherlock Holmes" out of the way with and that is the story becomes a convoluted mess. As we watch Holmes try to solve the mystery of how Lord Blackwood can have appeared to rise from the dead after being hung he goes from one place to another gaining another bit of information and clue. And tying into this is Irene Adler, a previous love who is working for a mysterious man who hires Sherlock to find a missing man. The trouble is that not only does it not feel like Sherlock is actually solving the case but it becomes more convoluted the longer it goes on. Of course in crime solving tradition how Sherlock solves the case is explained as Watson enquires how, but it almost feels like we have been kept in the dark the entire movie only so we can have the great reveal at the end and by doing so ignoring the countless red herrings which get thrown at us. As I said it is in the same league as "The Da Vinci Code" when it comes to messy and convoluted clue solving.
But right from the opening scenes Guy Ritchie sets out what "Sherlock Holmes" is going to be about, and that is the visual entertainment of a very different sleuth to the one shown before. In those opening scenes we have action as Sherlock gives us a detailed account of how he is going to render a man unconscious with a series of calculated blows and then does it. It is delivered in a snappy, punchy style which grabs your attention immediately and this is followed by more frenetic action as both Holmes and Watson physically fight several men before catching Lord Blackwood just as he is to sacrifice as woman. This same thing is used later on when we watch Sherlock partake in some bare knuckle fighting, yes this Sherlock seems to be a fan of fight club. It is different to the Sherlock's of the past and it is entertaining and more importantly it does distract you from the convoluted story.
With action in some form or another seeming to crop up every 5 or 10 minutes there is little time to breathe but when we do we also get the humour of Sherlock, yes this Sherlock is quirky. Again it makes it very much a movie which is a treat for the eyes and ears as we have Sherlock acting comically strange, playing his violin to a jar full of flies or ending up naked handcuffed to a bed. And the comedy works well with Watson being the sane one out of the partnership, the loyal companion who is semi exasperated by his friends eccentricity.
Talking of which Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are well cast as Holmes and Watson, creating entertaining characters which you are not going to forget in a hurry. They work well together but equally as well separately and with Rachel McAdams adding some beauty as the sexy Irene Adler you have a trio of stars who add to the visual appeal of the movie. Now I don't know whether it was intentional or not but Mark Strong seems to be visually imitating Brett Ratner's Sherlock Holmes as he plays bad guy Lord Blackwood, it certainly adds a bit more quirkiness to the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Sherlock Holmes" is an entertaining and enjoyable take on Conan Doyle's famous sleuth made for a modern audience. As such it is a case that it is basically visual entertainment with action and quirky humour but for those who want more will find the convoluted mess of a story lacking.