Release Date: December 25, 2009
Russo Rating =7 out of 10 stars
As indelible a character in audiences mind as pop-culture icons like Superman and James Bond, viewers have expectations as to what they want to see from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The opener in what one can only assume Warner Bros. is considering to be a new, major franchise, Guy Ritchie’s 2009 adaptation is a stark difference from the cinematic Holmes of old, but, thanks to brilliant performances from Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams, fits well into the character’s influential cannon.
After the hanging of their longtime nemesis, occult murderer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr.) and his ever-faithful partner, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), are called back into action when the sorcerer mysteriously rises from the grave. Now, the original dynamic duo must try to put their logical, deductive skills aside to unravel Blackwood’s mysterious plot, one that threatens to destroy the stability of England.
Guy Ritchie, best known for his stylish portrayal of England’s underbelly in films like Snatch, and more recently, RocknRolla, brings quite a bit of energy to the Sherlock Holmes lore, though his touch, at times, can feel overindulgent. They say that 99% of making a movie succeed is good casting. Sherlock Holmes is brilliantly cast from its titular lead, right down to Lord Blackwood’s goons. When Ritchie lets his actors breathe and explore their characters, the picture is deliciously fun. However, when the filmmaker overexerts his trademark visuals, ramping up and slowing down the picture, they detract from the sheer cinematic joy that the actor’s performances and intricate plot otherwise produce.
And what a story Richie and company created! With Downey giving Holmes an obsession for small details, to the point where he is almost socially unacceptable, it is remarkable how many tiny moments add up to solving the picture’s bigger mystery. While some people might find that the third act takes far too big a leap into the realm of the unfathomable, you can’t help but be swept up in the details and Holmes’ seemingly limitless genius. Of course, like any good serial mystery, Sherlock Holmes ends on a note that, not unlike the finale of Batman Begins, will leave fans clamoring for more for years to come. Consider this one holiday blockbuster worth investigating.