Monday, January 11, 2010

Sherlock Holmes. C+

There are multiple things to admire in Guy Ritchie's modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle's classic character, Sherlock Holmes. The movie boasts charismatic performances by its two leads (Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, Jude Law as his partner, Dr. Watson), some stylishly choreographed actions scenes, as well as a solid depiction of just how grimy London really is. But the movie ultimately disappoints because of three factors: the story, the villain Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), and Ritchie's direction. I'll start with the story. What's wrong with it is that there's no hook to get the audience entwined in the plot, which is extremely sloppy. We feel like spectators watching from a distance rather than eager viewers delved into the story eagerly anticipating what will happen next. It's a boring plot and when its resolved we're hardly blown away. Secondly, the villain, Lord Blackwood, was as insipid as Downey's Holmes was colorful. Mark Strong is a very good actor but he's wasted here. Finally, what really spoiled the movie was Ritchie's misguided direction. He's clearly the wrong man for the job (though his admirers may beg to differ). Though he gets a lot of out of his two leads, it's the overall style and tone of the movie that left me hesitating and ultimately unsatisfied. I don't like Ritchie's glossed up style, his use of slow motion, wildly unconventional camera techniques, and speedy flashback-flash-forward sequencing. I didn't like his focus on action scenes over plot and his decision on how to tell the story made me feel like I was seeing a drawn out British TV show episode. As I said, I deeply enjoyed Downey and Law (probably more than any other actors portraying them) and I the scene I was most dubious about-Holmes in a boxing ring-ending up being one of the movie's best. There's also small touches that I enjoyed, such as Holmes' cluttered apartment and his ill-treatment of the pet dog. I should also mention Rachel McAdams as the femme fatale . There wasn't much to her character, but at least she wasn't a cliche. In the end there's more to dislike than like in 'Sherlock Holmes.' It felt too much like a Guy Ritchie movie and not enough like an exciting mystery. The final scene in the movie is clearly setting up a sequel, which I actually invite eagerly. If the right story comes along, I think a winner is in order, because with Downey Jr. and Law in the leads, a good story is all that's keeping this from becoming a true hit.

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