Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Genre: Adventure and Myster Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: December 25th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Guy Ritchie Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan




veryone has their own preconceived notions of what Sherlock Holmes should be like. This wasn’t ours. One of the major staples of the mystery genre is noticeably absent from this latest reincarnation of the renowned British sleuth. Rather than chasing after “whodunit,” viewers already know from the trailers and the opening scene who the villain is – and they will be reduced to discovering “howhedidit.” Or at least, learning from Holmes the scientific reasoning behind the illusory crimes, since the audience is privy to practically all the killings. This over-modernized version of the detective retains the 1800s London backdrop, but little else feels familiar, though the fast-paced, biting dialogue between the leads recalls most of director Guy Ritchie’s previous efforts (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch,” “RocknRolla”). Few would probably envision the great Sherlock Holmes resorting to fisticuffs in an underground boxing ring, fending off black magic practitioners, and dueling with swords and hammers in heavy CG playgrounds. We certainly didn’t.

After finally catching serial killer and occult “sorcerer” Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his assistant Dr. Watson (Jude Law) can close yet another successful case. But when Blackwood mysteriously returns from the grave and resumes his killing spree, Holmes will take up the hunt once again. Contending with his partner’s new fiancée (Kelly Reilly) and the dimwitted head of Scotland Yard (Eddie Marsan), the dauntless detective must unravel the clues that will lead him into a twisted web of murder, deceit, (a ginger midget) and black magic – and the deadly embrace of temptress Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).

He’s no Jeremy Brett or Basil Rathbone. He’s a rogue, a scoundrel, a drunkard, unkempt, unclean, and a ruffian, who appears to be in a constant state of bewilderment, portraying an entirely different Sherlock Holmes, with characteristics not found in any previous film or television adaptation. He’s even part Tony Stark. Nevertheless, Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes is an entertaining, witty, quick-thinking observer with a knack for handling physical altercations. But he couldn’t be further from the classic character detailed in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous literature. Similarly, Watson has almost always been older, fatter, and less intelligent; Jude Law’s portrayal is more of an equal. He figures things out for himself, comes to Holmes’ assistance in fights, and roughhouses with the brawniest of thugs.

In what appears to be the first of several films, director Guy Ritchie chooses to “twist the very fabric of nature” with supernatural mysteries. Why can’t Professor Moriarty be the villain, instead of a dark arts witchmaster, who performs the most ridiculous satanic rituals in “The Da Vinci Code” fashion? And why does Blackwood leave so many complex clues for Holmes to discover? It’s never established that the voodoo lord wishes the master detective to keep up in a cat-and-mouse game. With a love interest unlike any seen in a Sherlock Holmes adventure (mainly dominating screentime), boxing rings for the sleuth to brush up on hand-to-hand combat, and overly complex deducing that can only result in lengthy flashback explanation sequences, Ritchie’s version is as foreign to Conan Doyle’s original vision as this year’s “G.I. Joe” was to the line of 6-inch toy soldiers on which that film was based.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10