Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had arguably created the literary world's greatest detective operating from that famed 221B Baker Street address in London, and has been the subject of countless film interpretations, but none quite like what Guy Ritchie had crafted in making Sherlock Holmes a lot more sexier for today’s audiences, compared to the rather stiff persona perceived so far, picking up the various clues from the books and cranking those elements up by a mile. It’s hard to find someone who’s never heard of Holmes’ superb powers of observation and deduction, being that consulting detective for the police, but never one comfortable with the limelight.
Ritchie had sexed up the characters of Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his trusty assistant Dr John Watson (Jude Law) so much, that you can’t deny the homoerotic vibes that reverberate all around when these two gentlemen grace the screen in the same scene, obviously still trying to work out emotional issues with their brotherly bonds now threatened with Watson’s engagement to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), and his moving out of their operating apartment. There’s this perpetual reluctance in allowing Watson to leave, and the jibes that they share is unquestionably very much like a bickering, seasoned couple, toward the end of a close partnership which had yielded tremendous success.
Which became the opening scene of the film, where we see the dynamic duo working hand in hand to crack and solve a case of demonic rituals as conducted by Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a villain who is pronounced dead by hanging, but turning up very much alive and walking the streets of London to exact his sinister plot based on Fear. Black magic, superstition and secret orders become the themes that Holmes and Watson, through science, have to solve before a New World Order gets underway in Old Victorian England, in an era just on the cusp of massive industrial revolution, having the landscape very much the highlight as well thanks to wonderful CG work that chugs along nicely in the background.
As a film for both fans of the Sherlock Holmes character and as an introduction, this film did its obligatory scenes well to bring you up to speed with the character and his idiosyncrasies, be it little tidbits like Holmes’ erratic eating habits, the ordered chaos of 221B Baker Street, his roguish methods at times, the myriad of disguises employed and of course, Watson being the biographer of their joint exploits. Some of these elements get the in-your-face treatment, while others get quietly snuck into the narrative that will certainly delight fans who spot them.
And Guy Ritchie stamps his usual trademarks with the flash forwards and backwards to highlight some of these prowesses, from his monologues on the deductions formed, to that of spicing up the limited hand-to-hand combat to show off Holmes’ natural advantage when having to rely on brute force thanks to physics and anatomical knowledge, not to mention coming with a touch of arrogance in determining how long his opponent will be out of action. Ritchie would seem to be at home with his filmography boasting a vast array of character thugs, now having his same storytelling technique applied to the other side of the law.
Some may think that Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law share no chemistry, but I disagree. Their scenes together as Holmes and Watson couldn’t be any better, and I would be hard pressed to think of another buddy pairing, which would bring out the same spirit as buddy-cop pairings from the past, such as that from the Lethal Weapon series with Gibson-Glover. Both men bring about a cavalier attitude to their respective roles, and seemed to be having a heck of a good time when paired up together, utilizing each of their specific skill sets brought to the table, especially when called upon to use their fists once in a while over their cerebral abilities. A major action sequence here also had this unbelievable fight which spilled from a lab to the docks, complete with sinking ship and flying anchors thanks yet again to the non-intrusive CG work.
The wildcard of the film proved to be Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, the only woman who could catch Holmes’ offguard, and well, the one who perennially escapes. Her role here is probably nothing more than to contribute to the setting up of the next film (if it materializes, though I don’t see why not), with the shadow of Holmes’ greatest nemesis Professor Moriaty constantly hovering, and which the filmmakers did quite brilliantly to keep him under wraps from the credits even, so that casting calls for a follow up movie would likely go into this frenzy when deciding who should step into those shoes to rival Holmes.
Only time would tell whether that follow up film would be made, but for now, do enjoy this jazzed up tale of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, in an adventure that would keep you at the edge of your seat. Highly recommended!