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  • Movie: Sherlock Holmes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs. 14 min.
  • Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, William Houston, and Kelly Reilly
  • Written By: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Pekcham and Simon Kinberg
  • Directed By: Guy Ritchie
  • Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Series:

Sherlock Holmes Movie Review

The Game's Afoot Again in Sherlock Holmes.

By Rob Vaux     December 22, 2009

Sherlock Holmes returns to cinema for Robert Downey Jr.
© Warner Bros. Pictures


As Roger Ebert once observed, there's no better way to pique our interest than showing a smart character being smart… and they don't get much smarter than Sherlock Holmes. Portraying his brilliance depends upon a proper sense of logic and a way of illustrating his observational skills in an accessible manner. Director Guy Ritchie achieves that in the first five minutes of his excellent new film. Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) needs to dispatch a thug standing between him and a damsel in distress. In an instant, he notes the man's physical vulnerabilities, devises a means of exploiting them, and launches a devastating series of blows that drop him like a load of bricks.
Some may accuse the sequence of being unduly action oriented, and indeed it shows the telltale signs of Ritchie's previous gangster-based oeuvre. But it remains solidly connected to Arthur Conan Doyle's original work, both in terms of Holmes's intellect and in the way he applies it.
Doyle described Holmes as an expert boxer, a trait rarely seen in the movies but which Ritchie uses to place his own unique stamp on the character. Indeed, while Sherlock Holmes constitutes an entirely original adventure, it is so deeply steeped in the source material that it might have been penned by Doyle himself. That Ritchie blends it so well with his personal filmmaking sensibilities speaks volumes about the care and attention paid to the project.
Downey, too, brings a sense of the personal to Sherlock Holmes. The detective's intelligence goes hand in hand with his self-destructive qualities--the ego, the drug addiction, the cheerful disdain for societal priorities--which Downey understands far better than most. His Holmes lacks the clichéd trappings of the character (there's no deerstalker cap or Meerschaum pipe here), but in many ways constitutes the most faithful version since Jeremy Brett's performances in the 1980s.
Jude Law's Dr. Watson is somewhat more dynamic, with a renewed emphasis on his military background and a relationship with Holmes akin to a partnership rather than the hero-sidekick arrangement which most interpretations provide. He and Downey maintain the chemistry of two men who have shared so many experiences that they practically move as one. Watson's impending marriage threatens to end their collaboration, creating nascent feelings of jealousy in Holmes and lending their easy grace the right amount of tension to keep things popping.
Watson also provides an excellent bridge between the source material and the rough-and-tumble action plot into which Ritchie casts us. Our Heroes find themselves arrayed against the maniacal Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a thinly-veiled Freemason who has embraced black magic and intends to use it to seize control of the Empire. After seemingly rising from the dead, he sends London in a frenzy of superstitious panic, while daring Holmes' clockwork rationality to stem the rising tide.
Ritchie peppers the proceedings with plenty of fights, chases and derring-do, rendered in a fiercely kinetic style that fully embraces 21st century sensibilities. Yet he does so with a remarkable amount of intelligence as well. There's a mystery afoot--a bit pulpier than Doyle perhaps, but definitely in keeping with his spirit--and Ritchie doesn't skimp on the tiny incidental details which Holmes ferrets out en route to his quarry. Sherlock Holmes also plays up the conflict between science and superstition quite well, evoking classic stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles without attempting to eclipse or infringe upon them.
The only shortcoming in the proceedings is Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler (aka "The Woman" for those familiar with Doyle), a thief and adventuress with nebulous connections to one of the series' other key figures. The actress seems game, but Ritchie doesn't quite know what to do with her, and her scenes constitute a palpable drag on the proceedings. Watson's fiancé Mary (Kelly Reilly) does better, though she's still just sideline material. Sherlock Holmes retains a Boys' Own quality to it, but while the female figures don't quite fit, they could have easily joined in the fun more readily had the script approached them with care.
As it stands, however, that remains an incidental issue at worst. The remainder of the film is a palpable joy: exciting, flashy, and bubbling with fun at a time of year when stodgy Oscar bait is the order of the day. Ritchie's cockney look at London's underworld finds a intriguing new permutation here--respectful of its source without feeling bound to it, and helping Downey continue the momentum built up by Iron Man. Sherlock Holmes demonstrates how its titular figure has endured for so long, and serves notice that Baker Street's most famous inhabitant will be with us well into the new millennium.

Also Read 10 Movie Sleuths That Need a Sherlock Holmes Reboot


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ponyboy76 12/22/2009 3:57:45 AM

I wonder if there is any mention of the Baker Street Gang? I guess there was no Brad Pitt cameo either? Oh well, its probably a full A or A movie if it got and A- from Vaux. I'm looking forward to seing this Xmas day.

NotAFan 12/22/2009 4:02:58 AM

My gripe with movie is that his personality seems different from the caracter! From my recollection Holmes is a stuffed shirt! From what I remember sometimes he acted strange, but he was never a wild and crazy guy! From the trailer it seems he's basically playing Tony Stark again but as Sherlock Holmes! I wouldn't have minded the emphasis on action as much if they didn't change his personality, but I'm no expert may that is the way he was in the books! I haven't read much of them!

syxxblade 12/22/2009 5:46:05 AM

Ok NotAFan, Firstly, if you haven't read many of the books, then how do you know he's a "stuffed shirt" and that his personality is different from the books to begin with?

Secondly, the whole point of this version is to show it from a different take, however from someone who has read a majority of the books, this version is pretty close.  He's a pugilist through and through, and has considerable fighting skills.  Guy Ritchie and RDJ have taken this character and made him relevant to the masses of this age.  This movie will draw a sequel for sure, as it rightfully should.

I will agree that had RDJ not done Iron Man, this movie may not have been made like this, but he doesn't do both characters the same at all. 

Enjoy this movie.  It's exactly what movie making and movie watching should be about.  A bag of popcorn and a night at the theater to forget your life for 2 hours. 

Hobbs 12/22/2009 6:45:52 AM

With the A minus grade Rob is saying this is better than Avatar. 

djphillips25 12/22/2009 7:44:00 AM

Well, it looks better than Avatar, at least from an entertainment point of view.

AFWICK14 12/22/2009 7:47:25 AM

I would not be suprised if this takes top spots from Avatar.  For me this looks like more fun to watch then Avatar.  Avatar was good, just not as great as everyone make it.  I think reason I did not enjoy it as much, is setting in the movies for 2.5 hrs with 3D glass on, it got annoying and I think it came up short on the 3D.  Of course that is my thought, I am looking forward to this movie though. 

midwest216 12/22/2009 7:56:26 AM


Dude dont be so bitter all the time, just because moms said you werent planned and she told you while you blew out your birthday cake is tough, but its ok! Sheep skin condoms arent 100% so back at her, right? Being a 40-yr old virgin watching baywatch and rosanne in the attic on grandma's 13inch black'n'white is tough, get outside make a friend or 2. Go to band camp and learn the flute, buy some play doh and watch Ghost on vhs cause remember donkey...people are like onions! Getting laid off from your job at the sweat shop was tough, and you were the best sandal maker ! Even if you drink pee , remember the glass is half full, drink up! and flavored condoms arent for lunch...stupid!

gauleyboy420 12/22/2009 8:08:23 AM


What are you talkin' bout, I don't see any comments from MrJawbreakingequalibrium...


This movie looks "FUN" Can't wait to see it!

Don't know what to make of Robs Grade, and A minus from Rob means this movie is OFF THE CHARTS!!!

pekstrand 12/22/2009 8:13:29 AM


NotaFan, Holmes was portrayed in the books as someone who could be quite passionate about his work. He was often the showman and revelled in putting it too Scotland Yard. He was rough around the edges and not well-kept either. He was also depicted as a drug user throughout the novels, in fact, Watson who is the primary narrator for the books and stories, remarks on his disdain for Holmes drug use. It would also appear that Watson is presented well. While Watson is often seen as the ladies man, the books portrayed him as very loyal to his wife and VERY loyal to Holmes and willing to deal with his eccentricities.


Based on what I have seen from the trailers, Guy Ritchie seems to have captured the essence of the novels and short stories quite well.


pekstrand 12/22/2009 8:17:24 AM

I would also agree with Rob's assesment that this film will be better than Avatar. While visually amazing on so many levels, Avatar did not have a great story or much intrigue to speak of. Sherlock Holmes strikes me as a film whose story will still reverberate after the the film is over. Again, while visually stunning, Avatar,s story did not resonate on any level really.

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