Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009): UK/USA

Reviewed by William Conlin. Viewed at the Riviera Theatre in Santa Barbara.

In 1887 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published his first story about a brilliant, eccentric detective and his loyal partner. Their adventures have been portrayed in print, radio, television and film on a near constant basis since then, but the most recent incarnation of Scotland Yard’s enigmatic detective has taken the name of Sherlock Holmes to a whole new level (and that’s not necessarily a good thing).

Guy Ritchie’s take on Holmes (Robery Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) begins with what seems to be the end of their case. The duo capture Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a member of the House of Lords turned satanic serial killer and lead him to the gallows, but things never stay quiet long for Sherlock Holmes. Reports soon arise that Blackwood has risen from the grave and those associated with him start dying in violent ways, leading Holmes and Watson on a chase through London. But in order to solve this mystery Holmes must seek the help of an old flame named Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). But with the three working together the question is: can they defeat Lord Blackwood before he has the chance to kill hundreds of innocent people?

Stylistically the film is a knock out. Ritchie’s portrayal of Victorian London and its disgusting underworld set the mood of the film very well. I particularly enjoyed the way Ritchie shows the inner workings of Holmes mind including his deduction skills and ability to predict others actions before they happen.

Though I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal I had a hard time following him at times. His use of an English accent caused him to mumble his lines in a way that I heard multiple people in the audience asking the people they were sitting next to what he just said. Jude Law is very good as John Watson, Holmes complaining but ever-faithful sidekick and Rachel McAdams is very well placed as an American femme fatale.

One of my favorite parts of the film was the score by Hanz Zimmer. Though it is very shrill, the violin-based music fits the film very well giving a feel as though we are actually inside Holmes ever-moving mind. For me, the biggest problem with the film is it’s pacing. At times it seems to take forever to get through one part then when the viewer becomes interested in another part it zips by before you can process everything.

My final complaint about this film (and this it my biggest problem with it) is that it seems as though instead of making this film to stand up on its own they made it to set up the inevitable sequels without giving the film a chance to prove itself first. Overall, Sherlock Holmes had a large amount of potential but left a most of it behind. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give it 6.5.

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