Re:View – Sherlock Holmes
I’d been putting off seeing this because, as the author of a few Sherlock stories in my time, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the Guy Ritchie super-testosterone version, but I was wrong – it’s light, sharp and pleasurable. Holmes at feature length is tricky because while the short stories were wonderful, the novels – with the exception of the hell-hound – are less so, and Holmes’s relatively simple cases seem suited to brevity. Ritchie provides a safe pair of hands for what turns out to be a rather witty spin around the usual Holmes tropes. Perhaps coping with so much CGI and the restart of a franchise has curtailed his more annoying habits. Mercifully, he gets the one signature scene, a pointless bare knuckle fight, out of the way early on in the proceedings, leaving time free for silly disguises (false nose and eyepatch), scraping the fiddle, the chemical experiments, Mrs Hudson (no longer Scottish), Lestrade (Eddie Marsan, superb), Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams, ‘feisty’) and the game being afoot all over London’s satisfyingly muddy streets.
There’s mention of Moriarty and Mycroft, no seven percent solution (probably to do with the rating) and a rattling good villain in sinister Mark Strong, he of beetling eyebrow and gleaming eye. The CG longshots are excellent, the half-built Tower Bridge nicely rendered, and the plot is some old bobbins about satanism and freemasonry, but what makes it zing is the chemistry between Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr, even though the latter hides an accent as bad as Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins by whispering a lot. For a director who has in the past been deemed allegedly homophobic, Ritchie lets Watson and Holmes bicker and snap about borrowed clothes and missed meals like a pair of ageing bachelors who’ve spent too much time in each other’s company. Holmes is also highly possessive of Watson, and his attempts to sabotage his sidekick’s forthcoming nuptials are a nice touch.
And there’s real energy in the set-pieces that go out of their way to explain Holmes’s observation methods. The fights and chases (in a boat-yard and on the bridge) have a weight and clarity that’s too often missing in CG-heavy blockbusters. By the end, at least one sequel has been set up. Bring ’em on.