Deviates a little from the source material.
The 2009 Sherlock Holmes released to positive critical and popular success despite being quite different from the original tale. Director Guy Ritchie seems to be a divisive figure, people tend to love or hate him. Looking through his filmography, I realized that I am probably not the best judge. I have only seen a couple of his movies, but he certainly has a unique style.
Robert Downey Jr. takes over the titular role, and for me Downey has always been a good actor who takes okay roles. His outing as Sherlock didn’t change my opinion, he is the neurotic genius who always manages to be one step ahead of everyone. His partner Watson (played by Jude Law) comes along as they must untangle a needlessly complex (but oddly predictable) case involving magic, cults, power, and a new world order.
Absurdly complex cases do fit within the Holmes universe, but therein is part of the problem. Throughout the entire film the viewer gets to watch how smart Holmes is, but there isn’t any interaction. The audience isn’t discovering the mystery at the same time, we are just bystanders to the narrative.
Ritchie was wise to drop the standard mysterious elements, but he replaced them with some oddities. First, this movie has more fight scenes than any other Sherlock narrative, and they get a little tiring. Over edited fight scenes serve more as filler than anything else. At a 2 hour plus run time, I noticed myself hoping the fights would just end. The action looks good, but simple pretty action isn’t always enough to carry a film.
Sherlock’s hobbies include bare-knuckle boxing.
Oddly, we see most of the fights twice, first as Holmes narrates his plans, and then as they unfold. It is a fun trick, I guess, once.
Perhaps the weakest aspect of the film is the interactions between Watson and Holmes. Their relationship is meant to be tense, but here it seemed they simply didn’t like each other. The first half (and even beyond) of the film is about how the two are separating from working with each other. This is an odd way to start a franchise—in a lot of ways this movie feels like a sequel. Why the tension? It added nothing to the narrative and is terribly predictable. Some of the snappy lines are entertaining, but overall it feels a bit like a waste.
The film is completely serviceable as a popcorn flick, but not much else. It looks pretty, and there is enough of a coherent story to at least hold interest. The film simply didn’t ring with me. Odd character relations, forced tension, over-editing, and the lack of any investment toward the narrative simply drag the film down.
Ritchie’s films seem to contain a slick and stylized shine that might make them entertaining, but it doesn’t give them much depth. The film is comfortable in what it is, and that is a major plus for it. There is no attempt to strive deeper than what this film is. For an action flick, it mostly gets the job done. 5/10