Does Guy Ritchie’s Geezers with Guns style make this Sherlock Holmes film memorable or forgettable? Having read some of the stories and seeing numerous interpretations of Holmes and Watson (including a Chinese martial-arts display), I have to say that the film is better than I’d expected. Solidly built, it is the central performances that engage.
It’s a brand new story. Watson and Holmes thwart Lord Blackwood in their final case together. Watson is about to get married much to Holmes’ displeasure as it threatens to permanently break up their relationship. Then Blackwood issues Holmes with a warning, his death is not the end and Holmes will be powerless to stop his plot, which threatens not just Britain but the World.
I’m all for fidelity to the original texts but a good update blows the cobwebs off what could have been a chamber-piece. Going to the cinema, I want at least some visual spectacle and Guy Ritchie gives it. The setting is in an embryonic modern London, all hustle and bustle. Cobblestones and carriages with the muck on the roads that the period had. The gothic architecture, grey skies and the industriousness of the city in the Victorian period. Unrecognisable to the modern city. The main dynamic is the relationship between the duo, Holmes and Watson. Robert Downey Jr won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Holmes and it is a well deserved win. Playing Holmes as an eccentric trouble-maker, using his intelligence to map out successful forays into pit-fighting, playing the violin while conducting bizarre experiments. He sparks off well against Jude Law’s Watson, a military man with a desire for a straight life which will take him from the one source of semi-legitimate hell-raising fun in his life. The way they slouch together in their bachelor pad, for lack of a better term, is endearing, creating a lived-in domestic atmosphere that Watson’s impending marriage will disrupt. And this last point is mined for all of the humour it can give. You can summarise their relationship as two men living together in an apartment, the ambiguity of their relationship is played upon by the film constantly, ‘Don’t get excited,’ Holmes says as he fishes in Watson’s pocket. No matter how you dress up their relationship, they need each other. They are a bickering couple, always sniping, frustrating and looking out for each other. “No girl wants to marry a doctor who
can’t tell if a man’s dead or not.” Every line of dialogue ends with this spikiness between the principal cast and this buoys the film up and adds humour. The supporting cast are equally strong. Rachel McAdams is great as the cool, intelligent seductress Irene Adler. Kelly Reilly puts in a fine performance as Watson’s soon to be wife. However, honours go to Eddie Marsan’s Inspector Lastrade and Mark Strong as the evil Lord Blackwood.There is such brio to the film with Ritchie’s style and the over the top story with its well crafted detective-trail and the collection of evidence all of which is well telegraphed and deployed in Holmes’s deductions that make you see the simplicity of the plot. Considering the original stories were pulp before they became literature, it’s easy to recommend this film. Hats off to the writers recognising the forerunners of Detective fiction with a reference to Poe and Wilkie Collins.
Robert Downey Jr – Sherlock Homes
Jude Law – Doctor Watson
Rachel McAdams – Irene Adler
Mark Strong – Lord Blackwood
Eddie Marsan – Inspector Lestrade
Kelly Reilly Mary Morstan
Produced by Warner Studios/Village Roadshow