Thursday 31 December 2009

Review: Sherlock Holmes

Year: 2009
Director: Guy Richie
Screenplay: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg
Starring: Robert Downley jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

I remember when the idea of this was first announced. I could almost hear the furious tapping of keyboards from angry purists. Irate that the "hack" that is Guy Richie has decided to lay his grubby mitts (he did have relations with Madonna) on one of England's classic icons. I bet a few hard drives burned due to how angry some of the forum posts got (my knowledge of computer tech showing there).

And here we are...about a year and a bit (maybe less) since we heard the news of a new "re-imaging" in the works. It comes out at Christmas and is stopped from hitting the top spot by Jimmy Cameron and his blue people. The thing is despite all the rooftop yelling about "game-changing" effects and the was Richie's down and dirty re-envisioning of Holmes that I enjoyed all the more.

The reason behind this lies in it's script and narrative. Both films talk utilize the ideals of fear and force in order to control the "bewildered herd" that is the masses. Both are very stylized in their execution and both are made by directors who really know their target audience (teens to mid twenties methinks). I went into both films knowing little about the navi and not that much more about Holmes (yes, i know, shocking). However, after watching both I realized that Richie's film has created a world I want to know more about and characters who really, truly grew on me. In Avatar I still don't know that much about Jim's blue people nor do I care. Richie hasn't been in the game as long as the King of the world, but it's becoming great to see that how quickly he learns.

I could see Holmes becoming a catastrophe of Swept Away proportions had Richie decided to write the piece by himself. Sensing his limitations, it seems the script falls to a trio of individuals who combine their talents to create a screenplay that keeps the essentially of what Holmes is all about (and not just a hat and pipe) but jazzes the the idea of Holmes and Victorian England just right. Yes it's more "entertaining" but it's not insulting and that's the key. The dialogue fizzes, the themes are very much a product of our time but it still has the essence of the era. It's also FUN. To watch Watson and Holmes irate each other like husband and fishwife is amusing but it's also endearing. It's "bromance" (hate that word) that harks back to when we called it the buddy movie. The characters on the page gel well making the actors' life not only easier but so much more enjoyable.

Whoever decided upon placing Downley jr as Holmes deserves a bottle of champers because he is a delight to watch. A man whose intelligence is both a blessing and a curse. Downley jr loses a few of the well known tics to bring about a Holmes whose not smug, but merely frustrated with the supposed challenges placed in front of him. This is a more jovial Holmes than I can think of, and it's the charm of the actor who plays him that brings it about. His foil comes in the shape of Jude Law who hasn't been this interesting since Closer. He craftily balances a character who is not only quite handy in a fight but is every so slightly a bit camp. There's a touch of effeminacy that tries to keep Holmes' man-child in check. It's all very humorous but it's also the reason why we care about what happens to them. At one point Holmes makes light that Dr Watson's career might be at stake but it's important to Holmes that it's not tarnished because of the relationship they have. It's these tiny things that build up the sakes in the film. It's a shame that Rachel McAdams's role is underdeveloped. It is also appears to be obvious that she is placed within the film as American draw to what is quite an English affair, because despite RDJ being transatlantic, has a nice enough English accent . Also, kudos to another solid Mark Strong effort he is the right side of slimy.

How about Richie tackling all this on his biggest movie to date? He handles it surprisingly well. After the deary Rock n Rolla, and Revolver (hated by everyone but liked by me), Richie is back to making bouncy British affairs which are made for cheeky smirks and wide grins. The film is filled with CSI edited clue finding and CGI set pieces. But Richie still manages to keep a sense of fun about the proceedings. At times it gives off the feeling of an old school Bond film, and while I may of offended a multitude of people by saying that I found it true, it has that sense of adventure about it.

That sense which was strangely missing from the big bright flashy lights of Avatar, a film that feels more like a feature to admire than to enjoy. Here we have the opposite, a film that wouldn't mind being called a flick. A film with a smart script that retains that popcorn munching feeling. I would say that Sherlock Holmes is more than elementary, but of course, this is not Paul Ross' blog site.

Note: I gotta say however, from Baker Street to Tower Bridge that fast? Really? You can't fool me guys.