Guy Ritchie brings his trademark rough and tumble style to the iconic Arthur Conan Doyle creation, Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jr. steps into the titular role, and while the script plays with the literary canon and text, it remains a fun interpretation of the character.
Jude Law plays the loyal Doctor John Watson, Rachel McAdams is the nefarious and dangerous Irene Adler, Eddie Marsen as LeStrade and Mark Strong plays the villain of the piece (he is just so good as a villain), Blackwood.
The story, played partially as a bromance between Holmes and Watson, sees the two men attempting to deal with their impending separation as Watson is soon to be married to Mary (Kelly Reilly). Adler shows up to stir the pot as the pair try to work out their issues even as Holmes serves as the world’s only consulting detective.
Blackwood is caught at the beginning of the film, seemingly conducting some sort of strange ritual, which serves as a launching point for the film as Blackwood despite succumbing to the hangman’s noose, is apparently back from the dead.
All of it is a large gambit, a plan for Blackwood to assume power with his devotees, forming a dangerous cult, working to wipe out the British parliament.
Holmes is unsure if he can trust Adler, doesn’t want to admit that he’s going to miss Watson when he moves out and is in danger of losing his mind if he isn’t kept busy with a problem to solve.
This version of Holmes has a few rougher edges than most incarnations of the character we’ve encountered, whether on page or screen, but the chemistry between Downey and Law is a lot of fun to watch.
There’s a lot going on and Downey’s Holmes is a very physical character, whether for action or comedic beat, and Law is able to go toe to toe with him every step of the way.
Holmes purists may not have wholly embraced the character, although there are tons of nods and references to the original source material, but the names in front of and behind the camera were enough to bring in an audience and cement the need for a sequel. It’s definitely a necessity too as they only introduce the name Moriarty at the film’s climax.
Sure you can tell that there are a lot of computer-generated backgrounds for some shots, but Ritchie combines them nicely with sets and environments and he moves the film along at a rapid-fire pace that plays to not only Richie’s strengths but those of his cast as well.
The film was followed by the sequel Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows in 2011, and at the time of this writing, there’s a rumoured third film in pre-production. I’ll check it out, though Ritchie isn’t currently directing the film this time out.