This is more “Indiana Jones Holmes in Pea Souper, Industrial age Britain”, which is infinitely less snappy as a title but perhaps more accurate. Similar to the new Bond movies, all the overused, almost mythical references are removed, a bold decision indeed.
If you can can make that leap, then you are going to enjoy this movie, if you are a Sherlock Holmes purist, clinging to your deerstalker and pipe, you should look away now.
Really Sherlock Holmes is the ultimate buddy, buddy movie. Holmes (Downey-Junior) is a twitchy, borderline certifiable, hyper intelligent, super sleuth teemed with steady, resolute military man Watson (Jude Law). Think TV’s “House” series or early “Lethal Weapon” and you get the idea.
Both actors are clearly enjoying themselves and the interplay between them brings the film up a level. Holmes needs Watson to tether him albeit loosely to the real world, whilst Watson desperately needs some excitement in his life, despite denying that need at every opportunity. A nice touch being that Holmes has to hold onto Watson’s money for fear of him gambling it away.
Holmes is much more physical in the film then the books to tend to suggest, whilst Watson’s role is more in keeping with his literary counterpart. Previous shows have downplayed his role, here he is very much in demand and more than able with fists and pistols.
Rachel McAdam’s (Irene Adler) has a sizeable role playing both adversary, peer and love interest dependant on the plot need. Kathy Reilly’s (Mary Morstan) also gets a decent look-in as Watson’s frustrated betrothed. Both ladies know their affectations will come second fiddle to the enduring relationship between Watson and Holmes but accept it all the same.
Strangely enough for a period piece, visual effects abound, bringing London to life as Tower Bridge is completed. A stand out scene using pyrotechnics at a factory is superbly realised and shows explosions in a way that is perhaps unique in a movie to date.
Mark Strong provides a suitable pantomine villain although you do get the impression this is merely the Hors D’oeuvres for the real nemesis, clearly referenced throughout the film, Moriarty.
Director Guy Richie, making a radical departure from his usual London gangster milieu, makes a fine job of bringing Holmes into the 21st century, sacrilege yes but perhaps the only way the budget could be raised and an audience found.
The inventive camera angles add rather than detract and the carefully planned and premeditated violence is well choreographed. Downey-Junior obviously taking “Iron Man” to heart by being no stranger at the gym.
Nit picking, Strong looks uncomfortable when making his big speech in the House of Lords and the effects are clearly effects albeit very well done.
Not really Sherlock Holmes but a reimagining for the multiplex audience.
Inventive, fun and sure to create another franchise for Downey-Junior who is going to be a busy man.