Monday, January 18, 2010

No Shit Sherlock

Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood and Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock HolmesI liked it. I liked it a lot. Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movie ticked my box office and then some.

I’m aware that some other bloggers – other bloggers whose opinions I deeply respect – didn’t think much to the movie. Some even gave it a right good drubbing.

And so it was that, with no trifling sense of trepidation, I accompanied my good lady wife to the cinema on Saturday to sample Ritchie’s latest offering for myself.

I loved it. There. I’ve said it. I liked Robert Downey’s Holmes. His performance was captivating. Jude Law was also excellent as Watson. This is the first film I’ve seen Law in when I haven’t wanted to repeatedly punch his smooth smarmy little face until it resembled a blister pack full of Ibuprofen. Maybe it was the moustache? It suited him. Made him less smug. It’s why I have one, naturally.

But of course, I’m not at all precious about the Sherlock Holmes shtick. I’ve never bought into it. Never read the books. Never watched the various TV series and films that regularly pop up on our screens. I’m aware of the legend, of course, but... I’m quite happy for it to be played with. Quite happy for it to be sullied, profaned, pimped and perversely tweaked.

A good job really because this is precisely what Ritchie has done. The fiddle has been kept but the deerstalker and the droopy pipe have gone. The genius intellect is naturally there – it’s intrinsic to the character – but it’s been shackled to a manic, emotionally inept, impulsive, child-man who plainly has ADD and an extreme sports’ addiction to thrills and danger.

And it works. I’ve long believed that any genius must surely plumb the depths as much as he soars to the heights. There must be a balance. The obsessive compulsive behaviour of Downey’s Holmes makes him more real to me. More flesh and blood. More man. There was always something too... stiff, automaton-like about Doyle’s original creation. He was far too “literary”. He couldn’t possibly be real. But Downey’s Holmes – superhuman brawling abilities aside – could be.

And I know others have suggested that Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood in the movie) would have made a better Holmes. But I disagree. As good an actor as Strong is (and he is) there is something too... measured, too chained down about him. His Holmes would have been flat and bland. Downey’s portrayal was rich in suggestion and paradox. Again this makes him more real. More human.

Lastly, although much of London in the movie was CGI’d, I thought it done with care and love. Ritchie obviously knows London. Knows it intimately. This came over in the beautifully crafted establishing shots of the city. The views were true. They weren’t some awful Mary Poppins cartoon approximation of London and “her famous landmarks”. There was something real about them too. And I loved the detail: the ordure on the streets, the filthy glass in the windows of the horse drawn carriages... grit, grit and more girt. All keeping it real.

Ultimately of course the film was just a romp. Good natured. Fantastical. Rumbustious. Honest. With the odd bit of discombobulation thrown in for good measure. I needed something light-hearted and fun and that was what I got. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might be spinning in his grave but I was clapping my hands on the cinema seat with sheer pleasure.

Would I go again?

Elementary, my dear Watson.


36 comments:

Rol said...

Well, there's no accounting for taste. ;-)

Steve said...

Rol: there's certainly no accounting for mine. Even though my wife is an accountant...!

Tristan said...

Got give you credit for that headline - very funny!

Steve said...

Tris: one does one's best.

Nota Bene said...

ah now it was tosh. Utter tosh...in Guy Ritchie's finest tradition. And none the worse for it...I passed a good two hours in Mr Holme's company. At least it left me amused, unlike Up in the air, which is really quite depressing. really.

Steve said...

Nota Bene: give me tosh over posh any day of the week. Now, Up In The Air, that's the new George Clooney film, isn't it? I saw it trailered on Saturday and quite frankly preferred the new Clash Of The Titans. Guess I'm still a kid at heart. And thank God for that!

ArtSparker said...

As we say in California, I still love you anyway. I will go so far as to say the two leads were likable and did their best with the execrable script - Holmes' "reasoning" at the end was particularly nonsensical, as if saying something VERY RAPIDLY makes it true (in this case, vaguely rational). Although I am a fan of the original Homes, my biggest objection was to the use of CGI, in the Vegas phrase, "Every dollar right up there on stage" with all the meretriciousness that implies.

Steve said...

ArtSparker: sadly CGI seems to be the way it's going these days... much easier and (relatively) cheaper to recreate Victorian London on a computer than close down half the city and get the chippies in...

Completely Alienne said...

Well I am with you Steve - I enjoyed it thoroughly. A thoroughly enjoyable romp. I have seen it twice - not because I was desperate to see it again but because Attila, my youngest (who has now seen it three times), absolutely loved it and conned me into going with her a second time when we were snowed in. Our cinema is a walkable distance from home.

Up in the air is on my to see list; not sure about Clash of the Titans; I have always loved the Ray Harryhausen original with proper effects so not sure if I want to see a pale CGI imitation. It probably depends if Attila can find anyone else to go with her...

The Sagittarian said...

I have to say that our family agreed with you, we all loved it. I don't tend to go into depth aboutovies and why this and that, I just liked it. Even my 2 daughters liked it. I'm not overly fond of things Ritchie but this one I liked and certainly agree with you re your comments on Judde Law!

Steve said...

Completely Alienne & Amanda: thank God for that, I was beginning to think I was a lone voice in the wilderness! Sometimes entertainment is justification enough for a movie and I thought Sherlock Holmes was highly entertaining. Completely Alienne, if Attila wants to see it a fourth time I'm free next weekend (any excuse)! I know what you mean about Ray Harryhausen - I can remember seeing the original Clash Of The Titans as a kid at the cinema and being blown away by it. I'm hoping the modern version will do the same. I've been slow to like CGI but as it improves I can see it has many virtues - not least in setting the film writer's / directors free in terms of what it is now possible to create and render on film.

Gypsy said...

I'd go and see it just because Robert Downey Jr's in it. I think he's a fabulous actor and can bring life to the most mundane of characters.

I like that you went to see it in spite of the negative reports you'd heard. I tend to be a lone wolf when it comes to movie critiques so I salute you. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Steve said...

Gypsy: a lone wolf is a glorious thing to be... next time I howl at the moon I'll belt one out for you. I heartily recommend you go and see it. I though Downey was mesmerizing, a real joy to watch - he obviously had a lot of fun playing the role and i think it shows. There was something very joyful about the whole thing.

KAZ said...

Excellent review Steve.
Very brave not to go with the flow.

Steve said...

Kaz: sometimes the "different drummer" has the best beat. or at least one that is more fun.

Owen said...

After this review who couldn't want to run out and see it immediately ? I hope the producers are sending you a nice big cheque for such excellent publicity...

Selina Kingston said...

I saw the trailer a few weeks back and thought it looked fun and now you say it's good I'll make an effort to go see it!

missbehaving said...

I love your title too.
Haven't seen the film yet but would go just for Robert Downey Junior.Like so many of the greats, he has that manic, genius wrestles with demons side to him and thank goodness it seems like for now the genius is winning.

Löst Jimmy said...

I saw a couple of weeks ago while in Mexico. Loved it!
I was doubting what to expect from Ritchie after the dreadful Rocknrolla. And the idea of pitching an American actor as Holmes...but man was I wrong, it was a bloody brilliant romp!
The tiresome, IMHO, love interest bit with the genius woman thief was the only flat bit for me.

Steve did you like me think that Downey's Holmes voice was just like that of Richard Burton?

Steve said...

Owen: sadly, like most writers these days, where I'm not being paid a pittance I'm being paid nothing at all...

Selina: go with my heartiest recommendations. If you see Guy Ritchie, tell him I sent you and he owes me...

MissBehaving: I agree. He's looking healthy and vital at the moment (though my wife would use other adjectives, I'm sure). Let's hope it agrees with him and keeps him erring on the side of genius.

Löst Jimmy: I must admit I hadn't made the Burton connection until you mentioned it, but now that you have there is a definite similarity. Mostly I was just impressed with his English accent. It didn't jar at all even when he was up against the natural English tones of Law and Strong.

TheUndertaker said...

Hey, I agree! I tell people it is not 'traditional' Sherlock Holmes (which Mark Strong -love that guy -would have portrayed) but a good movie! Robert D Jr did a good job, his accent was good, he was quirky, had no social skills and was as messed up as he needed to be.
Apparently Richie didn't want him at first, he wanted to go more traditional, but once he met R D Jr h changed his mind. Apparently they share a love of martial arts. In case you wanted to know that.
I have seen FAR worse movies, AND paid for them...

skatey katie said...

yeah, we loved it too X

skatey katie said...

PS it took me three scenes to recognise my dahling jude... of course i love him, i'm a chick X

Steve said...

TheUndertaker: that's interesting - I didn't know that Rob wasn't Ritchie's ideal choice. A case of serendipity there, I reckon, I thought he was good for the role. Totally reinvented it (which is possibly what the film's detractors are having trouble stomaching).

Katie: any man can be improved by a stylish tache. I got one years ago and have never looked back.

Clippy Mat said...

I thought it looked good in previews and wanted to see it. I try not to read reviews if I can help it but I just made an exception here. Definitely going to see it now.
:-)

Steve said...

Clippy Mat: reviews are great (perhaps including mine) but it always pays to see something yourself and make your own mind up. Hope you enjoy it!

The Crow said...

Love the post title, naturally - one of my favorite expressions.

Re: the movie - what you said, in triplicate, yeah...um-humm...exactly.

I liked the small tips of the hat to Jeremy Brett when Downey flipped his coat tails out behind him at severl spots in the film.

Holmes stories were my meat and potatoes when I was growing up. I've endured many interpretation of the character over the years. Some were better than others, but I lkied this incarnation of Downey's. Not traditional, to be sure, but most enjoyable.

And, dear God! what a body! (Sorry. My serum semen levels must be dangerously low today.)

Gina said...

Well, needless to say I haven't seen it, given my hatred of cinemas.

So I have no idea whether I like it or not. But I'll let you know one day.

Löst Jimmy said...

I have to lift a quote from your own novel when I say that although home, "The tube home (did) nothing to improve my mood."

It was remiss of me not to mention it in my earlier comment to this post, blame it on the lack of sleep but may I thank you very much for the opportunity to read your book. It was a most welcome companion during the quiet moments of reading and relaxation over the past few weeks.

EmmaK said...

Well good that Ritchie has finally done something good! I felt sorry for him after he was married to Madonna and she made him drink wheatgrass and meditate every time he wanted to go down the pub. Evidently freeing himself from her apron strings has unleashed his creativity!

Steve said...

The Crow: yes, my wife kept muttering something about "eye candy" in association with Robert Downey Jr but I was too busy analysing the plot and the director's input into the visual feast that was being projected before me...! ;-)

Gina: worth getting out on DVD - even if you only rent it.

Löst Jimmy: thank you kind sir - and for your email also which I shall respond to forthwith!

Emma: apparently Ritchie has been quoted as saying that sleeping with Madonna was like lying next to a piece of gristle. Thus proving that us men prefer meat on our birds as opposed to overly exericised cartilege. That aside I don't think I can watch the video for Like A Virgin ever again with the same wistful sense of desire that used to transport me to that metaphysical place where all men / boys go when they think of something highly dirty.

iamheatherjo said...

I clicked over from Gypsy's blog and had to say that my friend and I went to see this movie Christmas Day and we loved it.

I'm not a Sherlock Holmes purist in any way so I wasn't offended by the interpretation either and I'm a special brand of sucker that will go to see a movie just because of Robert Downey Jr. I think he's a brilliant actor. They definitely left the thing wide open for sequels. I just took the film for what I believe it was intended...fun. (Who thought Sherlock Holmes could be FUN?) :)

The Crow said...

Almost forgot: as creepy as Anthony Hopkins was in the jail scene with Jody Foster in "Silence of the Lambs," I think Strong outmenaced him in his jail/gaol scene with Downey. What reptilian slithering. He might have made a good Holmes, but he was a masterful villain in Blackwood.

:)

Steve said...

IamHeatherJo: be most welcome. Do hope you'll return. As my wife has succinctly pointed out to me it was obvious from the trailer what the film was about and what type of film it was going to be... anyone going who expected something else, well, you can hardly blame a film for doing exactly what it says on the tin. Personally I'm hoping big time for some sequels.

The Crow: it was good to see Strong getting his teeth into a role that was fun and darkly outlandish!

French Fancy said...

You make me want to see it and this is the first blog review of it that has sparked my interest.

As long as there are no Mockney gangsters in it I'll be happy.

Steve said...

FF: no Mockney Lock-Stock-esque gangsters at all though there are a smattering of street toughs... but no sign of Vinnie Jones at all which was a blessing.