Sherlock Holmes (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Sherlock Holmes</strong> (2009)

(In theatres, December 2009) It had to happen sooner or later: a retelling of Sherlock Holmes (suspiciously absent from the big screen since 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes) in the mode of the action thriller.  No, it’s not even trying to be an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories: This Sherlock Holmes knows how to fight, has abandoned deerstalker hat restraint for debonair nonchalance and enjoys the company of a hot ex-girlfriend.  Pre-made for slash fiction writers, explosion connoisseurs and steampunk enthusiasts, Sherlock Holmes has little to say about its character, and a lot about modern blockbuster filmmaking.  It generally works, despite Scooby-doo plotting and inconsistent use of dramatic devices.  At least we’re spared an origin story, as the story picks up well into Holmes’ career.  Robert Downey Jr. seems to be channelling Tony Stark with an irresistibly arrogant portrait of a super-genius (it works because he’s charmingly roguish rather than super-nerdy) while Jude Law does his job as the level-headed foil.  Rachel McAdams, for some reason, always look better in historical movies (must be costumes), while Mark Strong turns in another performance as the bad guy.  Director Guy Richie reigns in some of his usual tricks but manages to deliver a satisfying action film.  Only the sound seems a bit soft (the mumbling doesn’t help): viewers without an ear for soft English accents may want to wait for DVD subtitles or sit closer to the screen.  The CGI-enhanced portrait of 1880s London is suitably grimy, mechanical and interesting.  Sherlock Holmes may be a travesty of the original stories and a by-the-number mainstream thriller, but it’s pretty good as such.  Bring on the sequel, and let’s see Holmes square off against Moriarty.

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