Odd, fabulous couple
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law breathe new life into fabled detective team of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Guy Ritchie has gotten a lot of flak from critics who say he’s turned the venerable Sherlock Holmes into an action hero. While I admit the fight scenes seem a bit misplaced—particularly one in which Holmes is actually in an underground boxing ring (à la Brad Pitt in the Ritchie-directed Snatch)—the updated sleuth story is quite charming, fun and certainly energetic.
Robert Downey Jr. creates pure movie magic with his role as perhaps the most famous detective of all time. He plays neurotic genius quite well and is a natural for the role. Jude Law classes up the role of Holmes’ bumbling sidekick, Dr. John Watson, flashing his gorgeous smile and always dressing impeccably. Their relationship is strained here by Watson’s love interest, adding some humor and melancholy to their scenes together.
As should be expected, the film revolves around the pair, who have a mystery to solve. Here it involves the dark Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who is involved in black magic and secret societies in London circa 1891. He is devilish in his demeanor and mysterious in his actions and words, creating chaos and the perfect caper for the one and only Sherlock Holmes to solve.
Also in the mix is Holmes’ sort-of love interest, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), whose mischievous nature is both curious and irresistible. The police chief, too, plays a key role, as he is constantly calling for Holmes’ help with the problems and deaths surrounding Lord Blackwood. It’s never quite certain who is working for whom, and Adler’s penchant for a life of crime just adds to the mystery. Blackwood’s magical presence and seemingly unfailing ability to influence those around him is another piece in the puzzle.
It should go without saying that Downey is magnificent in his role, even as it has changed from neurotic genius to neurotic genius with an action fetish. In fact, all the actors are good—but no one stands out quite like Downey.
If the film has a downside, and it does, it’s not so much the action elements that many critics have latched onto, but the complicated storyline. There are so many players and so many pieces of the puzzle that perhaps only Sherlock Holmes can keep them all straight. In detective-movie fashion, however, at least he explains it all at the end, giving viewers reason for a second (or third) viewing.