Sherlock Holmes


Genre:  Action, adventure, suspense

Director/s:  Guy Ritchie

Writer/s:  Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckman, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram

Running Time:  128 mins

Budget:  $90 million

Released:  25 December 2009 (USA)


Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England – imdb


Since first learning of the film sometime last year I had waited with much anticipation for some time, managing to avoid the hype machine all together I walked into the cinema with no expectations at all, only with the knowledge that one of my favourite actors, Robert Downey, Jr. was in the title role.  I was quite surprised to learn that Guy Ritchie was directing and after watching the film you’ll be able to see that Ritchie hallmarks are everywhere.

Firstly, if you’re expecting an accurate representation of Arthur Conan Doyle‘s work then look elsewhere.  While the film does contain all the classic elements such as the protagonists, locations and various tributes to the novels, Guy Ritchie has taken many liberties with his reworking of the classic characters.  The brilliance and eccentricities of the Holmes character are intact however Robert Downey, Jr. adds a wit and comedic value to the character (though the film isn’t a comedy, the interaction between Holmes and Watson is very funny at times) that differs somewhat from the novels.  Not only that, but Ritchie has turned both protagonists into martial arts killing machines.  While Holmes was a proficient fighter in the books (described as an accomplished boxer) with some knowledge of Baritsu, a type of Japanese system of wrestling  used in the novels which is more than likely a tribute to the real-life martial arts/defense art called Bartitsu.  In the film, Holmes is highly skilled in the art able to take down adversaries in mere seconds using a series of precise, incapacitating blows which are beautifully shown in slow motion (as a narrated explanation by Holmes) before the actual attack takes place – I really liked that aspect of the movie.

Some examples of the Bartitsu style developed in England during 1898 - 1902.

Below are some screens of Robert Downey, Jr employing Doyle’s ‘Baritsu’, if not for Doyle’s novels, Bartitsu may have been forgotten all together.

‘Kick-assery’ isn’t the exclusive domain of Mr Holmes in the film either, Watson is quite capable of dispatching foes as easily as his partner in Ritchie’s rendition.  Throughout film history, John Watson has been portrayed as a bumbling fool quite incapable of assisting Holmes in any way, a far cry from Doyle’s version where Watson was a skilled doctor and intelligent comrade of Holmes.  Jude Law was casted in the role of John Watson and though I’m not much of a Jude Law fan I thought he made an entertaining and interesting Watson.  There’s a good chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law which I think helped to make the film even more entertaining than it might have been.

As I stated before, while the film isn’t an accurate representation of Doyle’s work, the film is nonetheless strewn with allusions to earlier works.  Some examples include;

  • “The game is afoot” – The Abbey Grange and its original source; William Shakespeare’s Henry V.
  • “Because I was looking for it” – Silver Blaze.
  • “Crime is common, logic is rare” – The Copper Beeches.

Mark Strong stars as the antagonist, Lord Blackwood – an excellent choice for a sinister mastermind, who uses ‘sorcery’ as a means to take over England and finally the world.  Though, throughout the entire film I was waiting for Moriarty to make an appearance, which he does to a certain extent (though shrouded in shadow and sounding very much like Liam Neeson), it would seem that the film will be used as platform for the sequel where Moriarty will undoubtedly face off against his arch-rival, Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes doesn’t use the most complex of plots (which is weird given that the film has four writers), and it far more kinetic than cerebral (which may have been unexpected to Holmes fans) but I thoroughly enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s reboot of a classic series and look forward to the inevitable sequel/s.