MOVIE: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Over the span of my life, I’ve had a lot of encounters with the great Sherlock Holmes.  Hands-down, though, one of the best was when I was living in my first apartment in graduate school, back before I had a TV set.  That year, I started getting a lot of books on tape from the local library, primarily to fill the silent void when I was home alone.  One of those audiobooks was a series of recordings of Holmes stories, read by ex-Boyfriend of the Week Ben Kingsley.  Most of the time, when I had a book on tape playing, I wasn’t even really listening to it; it was just there providing the comforting sound of a voice in an otherwise quiet room while I puttered around.  But every time I put in one of those Kingsley recordings, I immediately found myself sitting down, ear tipped towards the speaker, riveted.

I can’t remember how many of those Kingsley-read stories I listened to, but it was at least a half-dozen, and I’ve read many more Holmes tales in print during the span of my lifetime as well.   So, I would consider myself reasonably familiar with the mythos of Holmes and Watson.  That said, I’m certainly not a purist, and I went into this movie excited to see a new spin on the old boys from a director (Guy Ritchie) whose films I’ve found really energizing and unique in the past (big fan of Snatch in particular).

Overall, I will say I really enjoyed watching this film.  It’s entertaining, for sure, and I thought both the lead actors, Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as a totally kick-ass Watson, did a great job in their respective roles.  (Though I will say I’ve heard/read a lot of people talking about a homoerotic element to their relationship in the film, and I have to say, I didn’t pick up on that at all.  I’ve never really understood why people persist in describing a close relationship between two men as “homoerotic,” just because, what, they live together and they clearly care a lot about each other?  This is weird to me.  But whatever — it isn’t terribly important and besides, what the hell do I know anyway?)

While I was undeniably entertained the entire time I was in the theater, I did have a few issues with the movie overall.  One was the storyline — the mystery — which I didn’t feel was at all up to par with the smart, complex plots of the original stories.  The mystery wasn’t terribly original or interesting (it was about a bad dude who kills a bunch of people, gets hanged for it, and then “miraculously” comes back to life to keep on killin’), the clues discovered didn’t feel like authentic “eureka!” moments, the villain didn’t impress me as that terrific a nemesis, and the result was that I didn’t care all that much about the outcome.  The only part I found at all intriguing was the set-up for the coming and classic conflict between Holmes and Professor Moriarty, which is finally established at the end of the film, leaving great, hopeful space for a sequel.  Bring it.

The other issue I had with the film was, I’m sorry to say, all Guy Ritchie’s fault.  Ritchie has a very distinctive style, especially when it comes to scene transitions and fights, and while that’s a style I have really dug in the past (it worked to enthralling and often comic effect in Snatch, for example), it just didn’t fit here for me.  I don’t know if it’s because it felt too “modern” for the setting of the story, or. . . what, exactly.  But it felt forced to me here, like Ritchie got to the end of the film, realized his trademark techniques weren’t in there, and went back to toss them in at random in a few places.  It glared at me.   It jerked me out of the experience a few times.   It was too much.  Too much.  Just somehow a little bit too much.

Aside from these quibbles, though (and my overall dislike of Rachel McAdams, who I find kind of stifled in terms of range — read: boring), I was completely entertained the entire two hours this movie was rolling out before me, and if they make a sequel, I’ll be one of the first in line, popcorn at the ready.  It’s the kind of movie you should see when what you want is a boost of spirit without much expenditure of brain.  “Flick” is the word, really.  This movie is a flick, in the very best sense of the term, and, as such, it features very little in the way of mental challenge, and very much in the way of eye candy (damn you, Robert Downey Jr.’s mouth, because you look distractingly delicious from here and from here, I cannot reach you).   Nothing wrong with that.  And, in fact, many things right.

What did you guys think?  Hit the comments and let me know.  And can you believe I haven’t made Jude Law a Boyfriend of the Week yet?  I can’t believe it either.  I better get on that.  What should I rent for research?

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Action
Cast:  Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Kelly Reilly


10 Responses to “MOVIE: Sherlock Holmes (2009)”

  1. Alisa Says:

    Totally agree! It was NOT a great film, but boy was it fun!! Gotta love a 7′ tall French Canadian baddie…he cracked me up! I’m very much looking forward to the sequel and I’ll line up with you, Sweetarts in hand!

  2. Mark W Bryan Says:

    “Gattaca” is a nice Jude Law vehicle.

  3. Akbar Says:

    What about mark strong?
    Yeah the movie was totally davinci code. But it did make me want to reread some of the books my mom has.

  4. Liz Says:

    “Cold Mountain” is a good Jude Law movie (unless you really can’t take Nicole Kidman). It’s a Civil War story which I rather liked – although some of my reenactor friends didn’t. I also found “AI: Artificial Intelligence” rather interesting – if over-long (also, if you don’t like Haley Joel Osment, you’ll be annoyed with it)!

    I loved that “Sherlock Holmes” movie! But I think your comments are pretty much on the money. My favorite parts were the interplay between RDJ and Law (JL?) (homoerotic??? FEH!). My mom thought it was too violent (?), or maybe she meant too action-oriented. Could that be the Guy Ritchie style sticking out? She also picked up on the “DaVinci Code” comparison (I didn’t).

    BTW: “Holmes & Watson”/”House” & Wilson” – hmmm!

  5. Trip Says:

    I was definitely entertained, and I found the pros of the movie outweighed the cons as well. Downey/Law worked really well together – and like most reboots so far, the film does a great job of going through the motions of the old conventions…like Holmes walking in on a crime scene and using his keen observation to reverse-engineer the scenario to the amazement of everyone there.

    I think the “homoerotic” aspect everyone’s talking about comes from the one scene where Holmes is sulking and trying to get Watson to ditch his chick and come have another adventure with him. I think taking “homoerotic” from that is reading way too far into it.

    I took it as Holmes in denial that his buddy is starting to move on with his own life and he doesn’t want the old fun to end. He’s a genius, but afraid of losing his status quo.

    Blackwood as a villain was “meh” – I kept getting distracted by his ears – which seemed to be too-deliberately pinned out to look demonic.

    The film subtly makes note that Blackwood is merely a pawn in a greater Moriarty game…when he meets Irene Adler in one scene, he has an awful lot of knowledge about Blackwood’s plans for a guy who is never seen. I think Blackwood is supposed to be a 2nd-tier villain for this reason…

    I like me some Rachel McAdams, and she looks the business in period garb, but it could have been anyone in that role, really, and I didn’t buy her overt fighting skills – a character like hers never, EVER punches anyone. She’s supposed to outwit all the male suckers with her guile and be long gone before any physical altercations come up.

    The hulking Frenchman was great! I dug the electro-tuning fork and especially liked it when Watson asks Holmes WTF that thing is, and Holmes ponders for a half-second and says “I don’t know”, is bewildered by it, but goes ahead and uses it anyway. The film is full of little touches that remind you that Holmes is smart, but he isn’t totally invincible.

    The look of the film worked…it’s suitably grey and mucky and filthy for Victorian London, yet pretty in all the places it should be as well, and it never gets in the way of the story unless it’s necessary.

    One minor quibble – the characters run through the sewers beneath Parliament all the way to the Tower Bridge in like 3 minutes…in Seattle terms, that’s like running 3 minutes from the Space Needle to Qwest Field, underground and in nasty dank winding tunnels.

    Lastly, I figure if you need to make Holmes an action-hero, then of course you give him fight scenes where he uses his methodical noodle to plan his moves 4-5 steps out. As a guy, this worked for me, so I dunno, I guess I wasn’t too put off by the Ritchie-ness of it.

    Thumbs up!

  6. Jamie Says:

    Haven’t seen it yet – but it’s on my to do list. I didn’t think much of Jude Law until he surprised me in “The Holiday”. Just a really cute feel good show.

  7. megwood Says:

    Oh, I loved it when Holmes broke all the fight scenes down move by move. Not only because of course that’s how Holmes would win a fist-fight, but also because it gave you the chance to actually SEE the fight. That wasn’t the element of Ritchie-ness that bothered me. It was more the stop-action elements of the fight scenes — they go super fast, almost sped-up, and then stop, fast, stop, fast, stop. It’s hard to describe what I’m talking about. You either see it in there or you don’t, I guess.

  8. Lorraine Says:

    I was bored, checked my watch and discovered it was only 45 minutes into the movie. For me, it was a movie that felt like they planned some scenes they wanted to do and then wrote some skeleton story to get from point to point. I won’t be seeing the sequel.

    I’m a big fan of Mark Strong but the character was so 2-dimensional.

    Good Jude Law movies: I have to agree with “Gattaca”. Then “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. And for his breakout role, check his small but interesting role in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. He’s good in “Cold Mountain” but I never really bought the romance.

    The movie that I’m recommending is “A Single Man”. Colin Firth’s performance lives up to all the raves that he’s been getting. The film is very stylized and looks beautiful. But more than that, I felt like an eavesdropper on a man’s grief and emotions. It felt so intimate and totally intrigued me.

  9. Leslie Says:

    Law has never been better looking than tanned and bleach-streaked in the above-mentioned *The Talented Mr. Ripley.* His Gigalo Joe is the only good thing about *A.I.* And I thought *Alfie* — which I watched just for him since I dislike the original — played to all his stengths and was surprisingly good. Contrarily, *Sleuth,* which I was really looking forward to, was disappointing.

  10. Stephanie Says:

    Agreed, Meg, on all counts, except I am a sucker for the stop-action gimmckry (?).

    I also love how both of these actors have sort have been in the doghouse for some time and this movie exhibits why they are still working. So entertaining! And yes, I’ll see the sequel.

    Oh, and I like Rachel McAdams, but it seems like a more, uh, devilish person should have played that role?

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