Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sherlock Amok!

Sherlock Holmes as directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law was a movie I was little interested in seeing apart from its general connection to the Holmes canon. Downey seems terribly miscast and Richie's high-octane style seems an ill fit for the material. I was wrong, sort of.

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes is not a good fit. He's too short, he's too twitchy, and in the final analysis he's too smarmy. I can  overlook short, I can absorb twitchy, but Holmes is never smarmy, maybe bitchy and cruel, but smarmy not so much. Downey winks at the camera all the time, Holmes is not focused in that direction.  I'm amazed how poorly the disguises work on him, he's always Downey Jr. regardless of what dress  (sometimes literally) they put him in. He doesn't disappear into the character at all.

Jude Law on the other hand is a dashing Dr.Watson and I enjoyed him completely. He's smart and dapper and his penchant for gambling does add a bit of pepper to a character who can stick flat to the wall if the actor is not careful. While Downey seems a 21st century man in a period piece, Law seems to fit the sets he works within convincingly.

The story is better than I expected with Mark Strong making a dandy villain who just might be more than he appears. It's that dash of magic into the logical world of Holmes that makes this one tick. You're not sure if the magic just not might be for real in this movie and that makes the whole shebang work more effectively. In the final analysis it's an entertaining movie with some wonderfully effective visuals.

The sequel Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows is less than its predecessor though. Aside from the addition of Professor Moriarty who is pretty good, the movie has almost nothing new to offer and offers it up at an extended length. It's a rather boring flick despite the hectic action which dominates many of the scenes. Truly this movie lives up the maxim of sound and fury signifying little.

The wonderful atmosphere of the first movie seems often lost and Downey Jr. is even less convincing as Holmes. Law's character is played more for laughs to the detriment of the character and the movie. The ultimate plot uncovered by Holmes seems downright pedestrian compared to the exotic scheme of the first movie, and there are few is any surprises. I thought this one would be better actually, but it wasn't.

I can't recommend the second movie really, though likely you've already seen one or both of them. The first gets a mild recommendation because of the strong atmosphere and the wonderful performances of Strong and Law. For Holmes purists these are curious outings, but hardly significant additions to the broad canon. Hopefully we've seen the last of this particular Sherlock Holmes, but I fear we haven't.

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  1. I love Downey's smarmyness. I enjoyed the movies, but you're right that the first one was better than the second. I fear it's the law of diminishing returns.

    1. From what I read the second was rushed into production to reap benefits from the good reception the first one had. It showed alas.

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