(2009) dir. Guy Ritchie
viewed: 12/26/09 at CineArts @ the Empire, SF, CA
Though I’d been liking the trailers since I’d first seen them in theaters some months ago, some early negative reviews of this film highlighting the “Guy Ritchie” factor led me to lower my expectations and even consider skipping this film. While that wouldn’t have been disasterous, I’m glad I went to see it.
It’s “Sherlock Holmes” for the 21st Century and I don’t think that the film tries to have any doubts as to otherwise, so anyone with a purist’s heart regarding the subject matter, would definitely be wise to forget about it.
It’s a film about quality star power, namely that of Robert Downey, Jr., whose career has been perhaps reaching its highest point ever, much less just a “comeback” that started a couple of years ago with Iron Man (2008) and Tropic Thunder (2008). And he commands that exaxt type of star power that makes a film fun. It’s not so much that he’s “in character” but rather that he reeks of charm and cleverness and verve, delivers the best lines, holds up the action part of the film (and looks like he has a great physical trainer), and his face draws the eye. He’s a hell of a lot of fun. And Jude Law makes an a propos Watson to his Sherlock.
It’s been a bit fascinating to me to see the old London described in designs in modern films, not just street scenes or characters (which has probably been done better anyways) but these vivid cityscapes, showing the building of the London Bridge or the mucky skies and visuals around the river Thames. But that is certainly the window dressing.
The story has just enough cleverness to hang onto, perhaps the film’s largest weakness. I mean it’s Sherlock Holmes, it ought to be clever. Quirky it’s got. Elan it’s got. True inventiveness, well, it’s got barely enough. And I don’t think that is some purist thing seeping out of me, but rather that the story, the villain, the plot, it’s just enough with the occasionally slick action sequences and the charm of Downey, Jr. to make this film work.
It’s the kind of entertainment that you do go looking for from a Hollywood film, snappy and action-y, but still somewhat intelligent-feeling. It’s interesting, because it was so easy to believe that Ritchie’s work behind the camera could have so believably fumbled what he had to work with here. His career has been on steady decline and perhaps simply reached its nadir. But instead, he manages to get the clips and sequences, and while occasionally annoying using the camera to show in snappy flashes glimpses into Holmes’ thought process, he hangs in there too.
Still, it’s largely about Robert Downey, Jr. And in case it was too hard to figure that out, there was a pretty good trailer for Iron Man 2, which is due out in May of 2010, bringing back the film that helped put him back on top. He’s always had talent, though I perhaps appreciate the modern, current Downey, Jr. myself. And I am clearly not alone in that.