Holmes – Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law – Film Review
VICTORIAN MYSTERY REDUX
by Kevin Bowen
published January 3, 2010
now playing nationwide
In its still short history as a sub-genre of film, the
Series Reboot has traditionally been an origin story. In a word, it's been "elementary."
By that, we mean a back-to-the-basics sort of the story –
a neo-traditional approach that takes and re-works the original elements of a character and points him in a new direction. It
contains a sort of puritanical fundamentalism.
Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is something of an oddity in this context, because we have reached the point that the
re-vitalized character is, instead of a traditional figure, a Hollywood bastardization. Playing up the action hero of the world's best
known fiction detective, this is not your father's Sherlock Holmes. Or your grandfather's Sherlock Holmes. Or his father's. Or his
In fact, it might not be Sherlock Holmes at all, but
whatever it is, it is still quite fun. Traditionalists might shudder at the thought of Holmes doing action set pieces, but they're fairly
enjoyable in a Hollywood sort of way. The sooty London streets are enough to make you sing, "A sweep is as lucky as lucky could be,"
even if the fog is lifted too often for presumably California sunshine.
The clues here are an eccentric detective (Robert Downey
Jr.), an able doctor (Jude Law), some tremendously fun chemistry between the two leads, and a somewhat goofy supernatural criminal with
aspirations of world conquest in Victorian England.
Downey is entertaining as the half-cocked detective, strumming his violin as he silently contemplates clues,
all with a method to his madness. It's a role designed around Downey, and he delivers with an enjoyably spacey twist. Law provides a sober
and practical sparring partner.
One thing that I found interesting about Sherlock Holmes is how difficult it is for the modern audience to buy into a mystery. As a society,
we're used to the instant payoff, and holding an audience's attention is considered a risk. Watching Avatar within a few days of watching Sherlock Holmes, you're struck by this difference in pace. It might
be a shame that this is true, but it is rather bold to try a mystery these days. The audience might not accept the delayed
Much of your taste for Sherlock Holmes is a glass-half-empty-or-half-full sort of thing. If you see it as a Hollywood-ized
action-hero corruption of Conan Doyle's detective, then you are bound to hate it. However, you might see it as that rare thing – a
thinking man's franchise movie, one that runs on brain rather than brawn. It would be nice to have one.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com