A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

May 1, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Apparently May first is “Law Day,” which, according to a tweet by Bill Corbet of MST3K and Rifftrax fame, means we should pay homage to John Phillip Law today. Unfortunately we already reviewed Barbarella, which was the only John Phillip Law movie we own. We need to get an un-misted copy of Danger: Diabolik so that we have a John Phillip Law movie for May first next year. In the mean time we’re watching a Jude Law movie (in direct violation of Bill’s edict of this morning forbidding such a thing.) So we’re watching the 2009 re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes.

I remember seeing the previews for this movie and dreading it. The notion of a big-budget Hollywood film starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. and directed by the creator of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels sounded appalling to me. I mean, I devoured the stories of Sherlock Holmes when I was in sixth grade and loved them, but they’re not terribly accessible tales that would be appropriate for a Hollywood action film. However they WERE pulp tales of adventure in their own way, full of the macabre and references to strange peoples and devices from outside the sphere of the average eighteenth century Englishman. (There’s an entire chapter of backstory in A Study in Scarlet for example that takes place in the American wild west and Salt Lake City because the murdered man turns out to be a nefarious Mormon.) I re-read some of the stories after watching this movie and that opinion was reaffirmed in me. In The Sign Of The Four there is reference to Holmes being an accomplished boxer (a doorman recognises him from a bout.) There are numerous conspiracies and exotic poisons and all such things.

In truth this movie works surprisingly well. It’s like the original stories just turned up to eleven. The action is Hollywood stuff, and the romance (both between Holmes and Watson and between Holmes and Adler) is much more direct than the stuff in the books and stories that was only alluded to. But the character of Holmes as a man utterly incapable of living with people and obsessed with his own distinct way of solving all crimes comes directly from the cannon. There are many, many nods and winks to the cannon as well. There’s the examination of a watch which in The Sign of the Four was Watson’s watch inherited from his brother, but in the movie is a watch belonging to a mysterious ginger midget. There’s Watson’s war wound which in the books changes location from his shoulder to his leg, and in the movie translates as a limp that’s only sometimes there. It’s clear that the writers were fans of Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and used it as a rough foundation for this larger-than-life work.

On the whole, though, it IS a big-budget Hollywood picture with explosions and chase scenes and fights. And it works brilliantly well. Law’s chemistry with Downey Jr. is perfect. The reveal at the end of the movie shows that Holmes pretty much knew what was going on the whole time (as he usually does) and only needed a few facts to bring everything into focus. The action is wonderfully put together, all full of cinematic tricks like speeding up and slowing down time to isolate the hits, somewhat like in The 300. I had a terrific time watching it in the cinema, and a terrific time re-watching it just now on DVD.

Here’s hoping that the inevitable sequel doesn’t completely f*ck it up.

May 1, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Just like you two, I was a bit worried going in to the movie, but ended up adoring it. I loved the cinematography and mis-en-scene which I felt were rather unique. I just love it when camera work and visuals are integral to the story telling in a film. Primarily though it is the interaction and rapport between Holmes and Watson (well, Downey and Law) that made this movie re-watchable for me. I can’t wait for it to be my turn on Netflix to get this movie!

    Comment by Trisha | May 2, 2010 | Reply

    • Exactly! This movie defies all expectations and is actually a ton of fun. I’m so glad I got to watch it again.

      Comment by tanatoes | May 2, 2010 | Reply


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