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Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sherlock Holmes

It’s no news flash that in making the 19th century Sherlock Holmes work as a movie character in the 21st century, director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Swept Away) has had to make a few subtle (and a few not-so-subtle) changes. Part of the fun that comes from watching this particular version – and thankfully, this version is a lot of fun – is seeing the ways that Holmes has been updated while still keeping his core essence intact. For example, Holmes (played to the hilt by Robert Downey Jr) isn’t above going the punch, but by using his much-famed powers of deduction he can deduce the best ways to incapacitate his opponents. So while Holmes now gets involved in the kind of big action set-pieces movie-goers like to see these days, his core – that of a man who uses deduction to outsmart his opponents – remains for the most part intact.

Downey’s the current Hollywood champ as far as being a charming smart-arse while still hinting at depths within goes, which means you couldn’t ask for a better Holmes. Jude Law as Watson has a slightly more thankless role but he brings real life to it, and while the buddy-banter between Holmes and Watson isn’t perfect, they have real chemistry together. For the most part the story gives the cast plenty of space to be charming while providing a number of moderately interesting mysteries for Holmes to tackle in between dodging explosions and getting into punch-ups. The plot itself is a little thin – black magician and serial killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Stone) conducts an evil scheme seemingly from beyond the grave – but it moves fast, has enough twists to keep things engaging, and never forgets that for all the talk of magic and secret societies, Holmes is about explaining things logically. Anyway, the real fun in a Sherlock Holmes story is Holmes himself and this particular Holmes is a lot more fun to watch than most.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #470)