Monday, 21 December 2009


Now Showing
Roadshow Films

Following the successful re-boot of Star Trek earlier in the year, producers of the new Sherlock Holmes film must have been hopeful for a similar response to their re-working of a long dormant 'franchise'. Box office-wise I'd wager they'll be in pretty good shape (universally releasing over the Christmas holiday season can't hurt), while most critics shouldn't be too hard on the film with Robert Downey jnr's performance good enough to forgive any flaws.

Taking his lead from Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, Downey makes his Holmes a rather curious fellow – razor sharp in wit and observation but also a little flighty. But should the homoerotic banter between he and his assistant, Dr Watson (Jude Law is a perfect foil) become too much, there's always the Edwardian era Fight Club Holmes attends to regain his masculinity and the (hetero) male audience.

This is perhaps the most discernably Guy Ritchie element of the film. Working with the biggest budget of his career (somewhere in the vicinity of $80m), Ritchie has effectively used CGI to re-create London of the late 1800s; the building of London Bridge figures prominently in the film's climax. But he is most comfortable when his leads get down and dirty with the lowlifes of the city: there are fisticuffs, chase scenes and gun fire; Holmes and Watson as action heroes if you will.

That may have purists of Arthur Conan Doyle's creation spluttering in their cups of Earl Grey but for audiences young and old, the game will be well and truly afoot. The case – Lord Blackwood's (Mark Strong) death, resurrection and subsequent plans to use black magic to rule England – is by the by; so too, sadly, is Rachel McAdams' Irene Adler, a career thief from Holmes's past who has her own agenda. A little more screen time, and character development, would have served her better.

But, of course, it is all about Holmes. As with Iron Man last year, Robert Downey jnr takes on a role you wouldn't readily associate with the actor and invests it with more than you could ever have hoped for. Even as the film strains at just over two hours, Downey never does. He makes the choice of which movie to catch this Boxing Day elementary.

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