Editor’s note: Peter Lewis has agreed to use whatever it is you call his writing style to provide some measure of analysis to those folks who still go to a theater to see a movie. Enjoy.
review by Peter Lewis
Despite spending the past week roaming around the western expanses of our nation, I took some time to watch “Sherlock Holmes” on Christmas day. Since I was spending Christmas with a motley mixture of mates, the decision to see the film was quite spur of the moment.
Though the director, Guy Ritchie, once captured my heart with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” in 1998, and again with “Snatch” in 2000, my expectations for the film were rather muted. Had the film been released somewhere closer to the dawning of this decade as opposed to its closing, I imagine my expectations would have been off the charts. The cache that came with two such brilliant (though achingly similar) films was forever lost by an intervening decade of lackluster films.
While there is quite a bit of technical familiarity between “Sherlock Holmes” and Ritchie's previous work, it is a needed rejuvenation of a sagging franchise. For too long personifications of Holmes have wallowed in a sort of intellectual malaise, lacking in both the original vivacity and ingeniousness of the inceptive stories. Distorted affectations became the norm for what was considered Holmesian. With drugs, boxing, and acerbic wit, the film thankfully restores Holmes (somewhat) to the original bohemian and chaotic lifestyle in which he was created.
For all the rejuvenating posturing, the film is paradoxically lacking in inventiveness. The whole story arc was a bit formulaic and the movie itself was driven by the actors, namely Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, respectively.
The film is another in a long line of high profile “buddy pics.” From Redford and Newman to Gibson and Glover, Law and Downey Jr. are set up to continue this tradition. And they do indeed excel in these roles. Given the frequency with which the duo were once featured in the tabloids, it was refreshing to see them shine for the right reason.
Though I cannot deny the winsome nature of Mr. Law, I have often found his embodiment of roles to be lacking (all to often he seems a bit insipid). As Watson, however, Law has found a role he fits nicely. Watson is beset by his place in society. There is a dichotomy between who he once was (soldier, gambler, bon vivant of sorts) and who he knows/thinks he should be (reserved, polite, settled and without vice). Given his past dalliances, one might be forgiven for thinking that this portrayal of a man beset by two natures (and in the public eye) came quite naturally for Law.
In retrospect, perhaps there was no better man to helm a film such as this. Ritchie's films revolve around often improbable capers and feature a solid dose of humor. The Holmes franchise had become staid and Ritchie infused it with his expected cocktail of sly humor and respectable action sequences.
Yet the film may rub some viewers the wrong way. It is far from thought provoking, with much more brawn featured than brain. And while I think the rejuvenation was needed, the inability to produce much continued suspense is a bit unforgivable considering the subject matter.
Now that they've positioned themselves for sequels, the real question is what direction the franchise will take. If Ritchie's at the helm in the future, odds are slim that many Baker Street purists will be any more satisfied with the output. For the time being, however, this particular vehicle is a promising treat.
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