Monday, January 27, 2014

Sherlock Holmes (2009) [PG-13] ****

This is a dark, twisting action/mystery/thriller about Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his friend Dr. John Watson (Jude Law). Unlike the classic Sherlock Holmes films that featured a suave Holmes and a bumbling Watson, this is a big-budget action film in which Robert Downey Jr.'s inspired characterization of Holmes focuses on the man as a brilliant but quirky intellectual, with keen powers of observation and deduction, adept at bare-knuckle boxing.

The core of the film's plot is that Holmes and Watson are engaged in a struggle of brains and brawn with the evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who is plotting to take control of the British government. The story is based on an original comic book co-written by the film's producer Lionel Wigram, but it's also faithful to the classic tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, original creator of Holmes' character. Besides the action, the film explores the co-dependency and genuine affection between Holmes and Watson, a relationship that often feels like House and Wilson on the acclaimed TV series House. There are two women in supporting roles: Rachel McAdams plays Irene Adler, the traditional object of Holmes' affections, who may or may not be loyal to him; Kelly Reilly plays Mary Morstan, Watson's love interest. Holmes' classic nemesis Professor Moriarty appears, but only as a minor character who manipulates Irene. Moriarty's presence sets up the possibility of a sequel in which he plays a more central role.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, this is a fresh approach to Sherlock Holmes, faithful to the essence of the stories, but as a large-scale action film, a kind of James Bond in the year 1891. The screenplay is refreshingly original and, thankfully, not over plotted. The pacing is rapid and the costumes, sets, lighting and sound accurately convey the grittiness of London. Robert Downey Jr.'s performance is pitch-perfect and earned him a well-deserved Golden Globe Best Actor Award. If you enjoy period action thrillers like The Prestige, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Illusionist, you won't want to miss Sherlock Holmes. 

Labels: action, adventure, crime, mystery, thriller   
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 57/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=62, viewers=74)    

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