Sherlock Holmes

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Sure, it’s a belated review.  And that would be because I saw it belatedly.  I have great affection for Sherlock Holmes.  I find him a singular character in fiction, one that is extraordinarily gifted in his intellect, yet utterly human in his shortcomings: drug addiction, condescension, dismissiveness of women and lack of empathy.  To have such a flawed character portrayed in story after story has been repeated blessing, even if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made the reader wait for the decisive facts until the end of each case.

Beyond the writings, Basil Rathbone did well enough with the character in the 1940’s.  He captured the essence of the literary character, yet his movies suffered in that Nigel Bruce’s Dr. Watson never seemed a character whose recurring presence Holmes would suffer.

Skip forward to the 1980’s to Jeremy Brett, who nailed the character to perfection, but the show was saddled with two actors who portrayed Dr. Watson that, although truer to Doyle’s character, basically served as a conversation mechanism for Holmes.

Fast forward to just recently. Robert Downey, Jr., as Sherlock Holmes?  Sure, I was completely taken with his portrayal of Tony Stark aka Iron Man, but this seemed to be one of those sad cases where an actor scores a hit and immediately missteps into something built to cash in on his sudden popularity.  It did not help that the action scenes previewed prior to the movie’s release led to an inward shuddering I hadn’t felt since, well… Will Smith’s Wild Wild West catastrophic retelling.  Would a good Sherlock Holmes movie really need all those special effects and action scenes?

So, I waited until the DVD (NetFlix charges extra for Blu-ray…).

Result? 

Pretty darn good.  Downey, Jr. doesn’t have the aquiline features of Rathbone, or the depressed skin tone of Brett, but he handles the character, and its flaws, well enough.  Certainly there is an over-emphasis on Holmes heretofore untold hand to hand fighting skills, but I suppose it’s impossible to make a major motion picture without more action than… well, than Doyle would have written.   His stories generally remarked on the remaining evidence after a crime or a discussion of facts with suspects, but rarely touched on Holmes actually doing something heroic, granted that Dr. Watson frequently carried a gun to no consequence.   

The plot?  Okay.  The telling?  Pretty good.  The future?  Well, the hunt will be afoot on solid ground after this outing.  Likely the best aspect of the movie, if you hadn’t surmised my between the lines hints, is Jude Law’s Dr. Watson.  Finally, we have evidence of a companion who would measure up to Holmes’ needs for interests and friendship.   

I can’t give the movie a top rating – the plot is a bit overreaching, akin to the second Indiana Jones movie, but to its credit, it is not completely lost in suspension of belief.  Definitely recommended for home viewing.

3 of 5 STARS

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