Sherlock Holmes, released in 2009, takes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character and gives him an action-adventure reboot at the hands of Guy Ritchie. The film was a monster success in both the US and the stories setting of the UK and it took over $524m at the box office off of a budget of $90m. This lead to the immediate announcement of a sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, released in December 2011. The film also helped to establish lead star Robert Downey Jr. as one of the most bankable A-List stars in Hollywood.
Set in Victorian London, Sherlock Holmes follows the legendary sleuth (Downey Jr.), London’s finest detective and a man of incredible mental prowess. He is accompanied by trusty companion and diarist Dr. James Watson (Jude Law) as he investigates the mysterious and possibly supernatural events surrounding Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) and the woman, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).
Ritchie’s decision to cast an American (Robert Downey Jr.) as the titular character was greeted with a mixed reaction, but it was clear that Ritchie intended to turn Holmes into an action hero rather than the calm super-sleuth of the original text. Having made a few direction missteps in preceeding years (Revolver, RocknRolla), Ritchie stepped behind the camera to work, for the first time, on a project that he had not written. This proved to be successful financially and the central ˜bromance’ between Holmes and Law’s Watson was the driving force for its success.
Like a bickering, old married couple the two men squabble and argue their way through the proceedings, stopping occasional to emote some tension or threat from Strong’s excellent villain Blackwood. It’s lucky for Ritchie that this relationship is so strong, because the rest of the action is meaningless, if confusing, cinema fluff. But having aimed for the simplest of interpretations of Holmes and Watson, their chemistry is exciting and humorous enough to carry the whole film. McAdams’ Irene Adler is wasted somewhat, but with a relationship as strong as the two male leads she becomes surplus to requirements.
Pure cinema action-adventure fluff, as deep and thoughtful as a puddle, but with an excellent central pairing and some solid direction drags Sherlock Holmes out of mediocrity. Why they chose the Holmes name, when they so flagrantly ignore much of his actual physical and mental attributes is beyond me, but somehow the premise does just about work.