Monday, December 28, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Guy Richie has created a Sherlock Holmes for the UFC generation. He even has Holmes doing a spot of mixed martial arts himself, in what looks like a Victorian version of the UFC’s infamous octagon. This is Holmes for a generation that was raised on wrestling, comics and MTV.

It’s not that bad, really. It looks very stylish, the soundtrack is rather thrilling, and the direction is so kinetic that you don’t really have time to pause for breath as you’re rushed through the Gothic Victoriana.

There is precious little relation to the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, of course, but too much can be made of that. Watchmen clung religiously to the original text, and what a stinker that was. There’s nothing wrong with taking an original text and adding to it. The problem is that Richie’s Holmes takes away, and leaves a big hollow where the humanity used to be.

Take the Hound of the Baskervilles off your shelf – and if it’s not on your shelf, do yourself a favour and go out and buy it. An Spailpín will still be here when you get back – and read it again. You can hear the hound calling across those lonesome Yorkshire moors. It all feels so very real.

Nothing in Guy Richie’s Holmes feels real. The plot owes more to Dennis Wheatley than Conan Doyle, and the look of the film is too comic book. You never feel you’re in Victorian London. You never feel like you’re anywhere human at all.

Part of the problem, funnily enough, is Holmes himself. He has no real human qualities. He’s a caricature, much more so than he was in books or in previous celluloid characterisations. At one stage, watching Downey eat, I was reminded of him in Chaplin in 1992, when he does the fork dance. Perhaps Downey was channelling that in the absence of something else to get his teeth into.

The strongest performance of the movie – and nobody is more surprised than your correspondent – is Jude Law’s Doctor Watson. Law’s shallowness is such that he fails to shine as a star, but the man was born to play second banana. There is some good business between him and Downey, but it’s not nearly as good as the movie believes it is. Rachel McAdams is wasted in the picture. Shame.

Sherlock Holmes ends with exactly the same setup for a sequel as Batman Begins. Shamelessly so, in fact. And there may be a sequel, certainly. But in ten years’ time, the movie(s) will be seen for they are – grand for a trip to the movies, but ultimately disposable. While Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett still continue to shine as the definitive Holmes of big and small screen, respectively.

FOCAL SCOIR: Luke Kelly’s definitive version of the Rocky Road to Dublin is used twice in the movie, firstly during the UFC scene and secondly over the end credits. Nobody cheered or clapped while An Spailpín was in Cineworld on Parnell Street when it was played, either time. And that's sad.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,