Unreal Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes


I’ve always wondered what would happen if someone strapped Guy Ritchie down and made him film a movie that WASN’T about a carnival of British criminals all after a diamond, a painting or a pair of guns. As it turns out, the man is capable of moving beyond the genre he created, and although we’re still in Britain, and still dealing with criminals, Sherlock Holmes is a different breed of film, not just for Ritchie, but also compared to the current modern slate of movies based on video games, toys and comics.

I say this with a touch of irony of course, as Ritchie’s version of Holmes IS in fact based off of a modernized comic version of the character, but Joe Average doesn’t know that so I’m willing to let it slide. What we have with this reimagining of the character is a slick, smart action/comedy franchise just asking for a trilogy.

Perhaps the best part of the film for me was the fact that it skips a painfully arduous origin story that plagues almost every initial movie in a series. Instead, we’re thrust into what appears to be the tail end of Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson’s (Jude Law) relationship, as after a multitude of cases together, Watson is moving on with his life, and moving in with his wife to be.

After solving their final mystery, the arrest, capture and execution of the dark arts practicing Lord Blackwood, Watson heads out, and Holmes is left by himself to be consumed by his self-destructive tendencies which include drinking heavily and inventing dangerous things.


…and also cage fighting, which is a surprisingly good use of his deductive reasoning skills.

But the team is forced back together when Lord Blackwood seemingly rises from the dead and starts raining terror down on London with black magic. Also in the mix is Holmes’ former lover/adversary Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), hired by a mysterious figure to manipulate Holmes into helping him achieve his ends through the Blackwood case.

The story is smarter than your average action/mystery/comedy, with Holmes using his considerable brain power to solve the case like a 19th century combination of Adrian Monk (of Monk fame) and Shawn Spencer (of Psych fame). For those worried about the inclusion of black magic into this seemingly logical universe, you’re going to have to trust me when I say it actually does fit in with the tone of the film by the end, and the universe Ritchie has here is more consistent than you’re led to believe.

But story aside, the real reason the film works is because of Downey Jr’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson. Each of them is spot-on as their respective characters, however much they may differ from their Doyle predecessors, and the dynamic between them is what makes the film fun to watch, as it goes beyond any mixed-race buddy cop movie you’ve seen before, and feels like a natural friendship rather than two characters with clashing personalities forced to share a patrol car, err stagecoach.

I was curious as to how Rachel McAdams was going to pull off a British accent, but that was remedied by her character being from New Jersey. Adler isn’t given the development she deserves, and it’s unclear as to why exactly she’s the only one who can ever outsmart Holmes on a consistent basis. Because she’s hot? Is that it? The low point of the film is without a doubt when you realize that the scene from the trailer where McAdams struts around a hotel room in lingerie has been cut from the film completely. That had me shaking my first at the end credits.


Why are your clothes on?!

It’s a fun movie, it’s a different movie and that alone is enough to make it stand out amidst a series of cloned superheroes and toys getting their own three picture deals these days. The film is obviously set up to be a franchise, with Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty lurking on the horizon, and in an era where the mention of a sequel is eye rolling, I’m actually looking forward to seeing where this series is going.

Ritchie is outside of his box, and it’s nice to see he can swim in unfamiliar waters. Supported by an excellent cast, Sherlock Holmes may have just cemented himself as the definitive movie character of the year, and I’m curious as to just where his adventures take us next.

4 out of 5 stars


And special congratulations to Jude Law for making the first movie I’ve liked him in since Gattaca.

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  1. great review. I thought the same- it was different and unlike many of the films of the past year. The film could have gone with less Rachel McAdams though- she became annoying after the hotel scene. Robert Downey Jr scores again.

  2. This movie was absolute shit and is another great example of how Hollywood fucks up a great story. Downey’s cultivation of this smug, wise-cracking character is annoying as hell. He continues to be overrated; pity the drugs didn’t kill this prick years ago.

  3. I’m glad to hear you liked it. I saw it two days ago and I really enjoyed it. It manged to be extremely entertaining and the more I think back on it now, the more I seem to like it.
    It managed to be smart and funny, but it never crossed those lines, in the sense that the ploy did not become too complicated or that it didn’t seem like a movie attempting to be a subtle comedy.
    Robert Downey Jr definitely stole the show for me in this movie, but he always sort of does in every film he is in anyway…He is just full of awesomeness.
    With the ending setup of this film, I think we can expect a sequel in the near future, which is fine by me.

  4. Paul –

    Great review, but I didn’t like the movie nearly as much as you did. Downey was superb, I thought, and Jude Law was excellent, too. The best role he’s had in a while, that’s for sure.

    Here are my two problems:

    1) The studio should have let Guy Ritchie do more Guy Ritchie stuff. The slow motion reasoning/fighting was very original; would have liked to have seen more of those kinds of things.

    2) This is my major problem – maybe I’m alone on this, but a movie like Sherlock Holmes should be more…clever. I mean, it’s a mystery, and the whole point of mysteries is for the audience to try and figure out what’s happening.

    But in this movie, you can’t, and it isn’t fair. The audience should have access to the same clues and information that Holmes does. That way, when Holmes solves the case and we’re stumped, he’s SHERLOCK HOLMES. But instead, at the end, we get some “oh, by the way, this was this and this was this, and you never saw this going on, but Sherlock knew it all along for some unknown reason” it just feels cheap. For example – when Holmes licked the rock outside the tomb to determine its chemical makeup, the audience wasn’t privy to that information. I’m not saying that would have helped me (or really anyone) solve it, but we’d be on the same playing field as Holmes – and that’s the whole point. If he’s got information that we don’t, then the big reveal isn’t enlightening or shocking, instead, it’s just meh.

    And if this was more of an action movie than a mystery (which I’d argue it isn’t), the action in the beginning of the movie was much better than toward the end.

    I have seen dozens of capers/mysteries more clever than this, and that’s pretty inexcusable.

    As an aside, Mickey Rourke was in the theater with us. So it was kind of cool seeing the Iron Man 2 trailer with Whiplash sitting down the row.

  5. And also, I really do like the imagining of Holmes as a borderline autistic/sociopath. I guess what I was trying to say is that I really liked the acting and the characters, but the presentation of the mystery was weak. For that reason, yes, I’d support a sequel, too.

  6. Hey, I don’t know anything about a Holmes comic as I don’t read them, but after seeing the movie I would argue that The representation of Holmes and Watson is closer to the Doyle creations than the traditional, stuffy pair you see in other movies. This statement comes from, of course, the remark you made: “…however much they may differ from their Doyle predecessors…”
    Ritchie’s pair is much closer to Doyle’s than any other director/writer has done previously. Now, If they are based on a comic, obviously then the comic is closer to the source material than other movies. Just check Wikipedia if you don’t believe me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Watson_(Sherlock_Holmes)
    The sword-cane, bare knuckle fighting, ass kicking Watson are all there…

  7. While I agree with Rachel’s “Downey’s cultivation of this smug, wise-cracking character is annoying as hell.”

    I walked out of this movie thinking, that was good, but man Downey’s always this arrogant, smart arse, yet intelligent character (Sherlock Holmes, Tony Stark, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang… rinse repeat).

    I however like the fact that he has reemerged, though I would like to see him play a character other than the “smug, wise-cracking genius”.

  8. Yeah. I will admit, right in the parking lot outside of the theater I told my friends that I thought Law was the better performer because he, you know, actually acted, whereas Downey just showed up and played himself.

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