Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James

Directed by: Guy Ritchie

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood and Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes

I must admit, I wasn't convinced by the idea of wannabe gangster director Guy Ritchie directing an American actor as Sherlock Holmes in an action adventure big bucks flick. But within five minutes both director and actor had won me over as a fan of this pacy, racy, core-blimey-guv'nor-it's-really-quite-acey high octane adventure.   

The plot is all very silly. Evil Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who, with a sinister undercut, leather coat and dastardly scheme to take over the world (or something) appears to be the advance guard of Hitler, must be stopped before he destroys civilisation as we know it (here represented by muddy streets churned up by trotting carriages, a half-built Tower Bridge and, of course, the Houses of Parliament). Cue black magic, murder and an organisation that's clearly supposed to be the Masons, but perhaps Richie thought they might sue, followed by much pugilism, enormous explosions and some fairly spectacular stunts, with a bit of quick-smart detective work thrown in for free.

But who cares about the plot? Really it's all about one man, the legendary inhabitant of 221B Baker Street. And Robert Downey Jr gives us a Sherlock Holmes to reckon with, Conan Doyle's detective with a 21st century make over, combining the meticulous acumen of Grissom with the arrogant, curmudgeonly brilliance of House and the ragamuffin unpredictability of Captain Jack Sparrow.

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr as Watson and Holmes

Jude Law holds his own manfully as a younger, smarter Watson than we're accustomed to, a brisk, no-nonsense man of action who's always got his friend and colleague's back. The chemistry between the two leads practically crackles, giving the film a heart typically lacking from Ritchie's work and making this the best buddy movie since Hot Fuzz. A shame that the same can't be said of the spark (or lack of one) between Holmes and femme fatale nemesis Irene Adler: Rachel McAdams looks lovely but is just a bit too young for the role.  

If, like me, you grew up with Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett and prefer your Sherlock Holmes cold, austere and lofty, think again, because self-destructive, restless and sexy is so much more fun. Elementary, surely?

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