Guy Ritchie’s new “Sherlock Holmes” movie departs far from the original
Sherlock Holmes, the cunning detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is no stranger to the screen.
He’s appeared on film and television roughly 200 times, speaking a combination of English, Russian, German, French, Italian, Czech and Chinese. He’s been played by some of the 20th century’s greatest actors, including Basil Rathbone, Peter O’Toole, Peter Cushing, Michael Caine, Christopher Lee and Christopher Plummer.
Through it all, Holmes has been cool, calm and collected, the paragon of Victorian virtue and steely resolve.
Well, my dear Watson, it appears that we have a far different Holmes on our hands.
Just look at the first trailer for Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.”
The director of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” Ritchie takes a comic, consciously hip approach to the “Sherlock Holmes” mythos. The Great Detective comes off as a sort of 19th-century superhero, dodging bullets, brandishing weapons and engaging in a dangerous flirtation with The Woman, aka Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).
It’s a bit disconcerting to see Holmes as bare-knuckle brawler, sword fighter and ladies’ man, especially when you compare that image to the cold, calculating genius presented in Doyle’s stories. That was a man more obsessed with “clews” and cocaine than bedroom subterfuge, a man for whom the use of force is a rarity, not a necessity.
This Holmes uses brawn, brains and gunpowder with equal regularity. He also, it appears, has a way with one-liners.
As many as six people are credited with the screenplay and story — including producer Lionel Wigram (“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”) and screenwriters Mike Johnson, Simon Kinberg (“Jumper”) and Anthony Peckham (“Don’t Say a Word”) — so it’s difficult to see where the fault for this departure lies. (Doyle gets credit for “characters,” suggesting there’s little that ties the film to his work.)
I see more parallels to the Hughes Brothers’ “From Hell” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” than “The Hound of the Baskervilles.“
Now for the good news.
Jude Law is a solid fit as Sherlock Holmes’ long-suffering assistant, Dr. John Watson.
He’s not quite as stodgy or stocky as past Watsons, but he has the character’s middle class moralism and narrowed-eyed disapproval down pat. That irritating air of hero worship, we assume, will come later.
Rachael McAdams looks sexy. And appears to spend at least part of the film partially dressed. No complaints there.
And you really can’t much better than casting Mark Strong, who most recently bared his acting chops in Ritchie’s “RocknRolla”, as your villain.
As for Robert Downey Jr., he appears to be doing what RDJ does best — brooding intensity, crushed-velvet vulnerability and sly, slippery humor. (See: “Iron Man,” “Zodiac,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.“) He, also, looks pretty damn good without a shirt on.
It’s not Holmes he’s playing, but this movie really isn’t about Holmes, is it?
This is James Bond with a deerstalker and a Meerschaum pipe.
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