Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan
Watch Sherlock Holmes online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
When the news spread that Guy Ritchie was taking on Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved brainbox, a little bit of fear was understandable. After all, this was the man who brought the world RocknRolla. The only people who weren’t scared were the director’s devoted fans. Not that their opinion mattered. And sure enough, he’s given us a Sherlock sans deerstalker plus bare-knuckle brutality. This isn’t the Holmes of your childhood. This isn’t even a Holmes movie. This is a Robert Downey Jr. movie. And you know what? It’s a lot of fun.
Swaggering along, pipe in hand, Downey Jr. owns the streets of period London. And boy, does he know it. More cocky than cockney, his crime solver is suave, smart and incredibly silly. Even with the evil Lord Blackwood (Strong) rising from the dead to take over the world, a playful tone runs through these grimy streets – a welcome touch, which keeps the pace flowing nicely.
Beefing up the bond between Holmes (Downey Jr) and Watson (Law), the sleuth and his sidekick are more of a couple than anything. Bickering and bantering with well-matched comic timing, their bromance is more interesting than the relationship between Holmes and Irene Sadler (McAdams), or Watson and Mary (Reilly). In fact, neither women have much to do with anything – even Sadler’s sneaky double crosser is little more than a plot function. Mark Strong, meanwhile, makes the most of his role as the sinister villain, adding weight to a mostly predictable plot, and Eddie Marsan is excellent as ever as chief of police.
The cast, then, are Sherlock’s real saving grace. Sure, Ritchie keeps the visuals exciting enough (even throwing in a neat play on his trademark slow-motion punch-ups), using wonky flashbacks and nifty production design to conjure up an alternate view of the old capital. But this isn’t quite Holmesy enough to work as a crime thriller – there isn’t much crime to solve and while the violin crops up a couple of times, there’s little thinking to be had. A shame, really, because Downey Jr definitely has the eccentricity down pat. But when it comes to battling bad guys atop Tower Bridge, this all-new Holmes deduces some daring, if not deep, entertainment.
Sherlock Holmes (2009) is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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