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Friday, December 25, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
Sherlock Holmes

Brains Battered By Brawn In 1890s Britain


Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams in Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes".    Warners

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Friday, December 25, 2009

Guy Ritchie visits the late 19th Century in "Sherlock Holmes", which opened today across the U.S. and Canada.  The film exhibits Mr. Ritchie's trademark flourishes but mostly not for the better as repetitive stylization comes close to overwhelming the performances, including that of Robert Downey Jr. in the title role.  "Sherlock Holmes", which nonetheless is often entertaining, suffers from a lack of solid villain and vision.

Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong), onscreen for a total of 30 minutes, is the film's major villain, deemed responsible for several murders in London.  This lord is a slippery one; people tend to disappear under his watch.  Holmes is on Blackwell's case, determined to solve the seemingly unsolvable.  Holmes' trusty companion Dr. Watson (Jude Law) and he behave like spouses, cantankerously ping-ponging and constantly barbing each other.  Mr. Downey, game for just about anything, gives the famous detective an extra physical dimension as well as a platform to showcase the actor's well-regarded talents.  Stella Adler (Rachel McAdams, in a cameo), Holmes' rival and lover, returns to London and proves elusive.  A rigid lawman (Eddie Marsan) has a contentious relationship with Detective Holmes.  A lot is going on in a sometimes unfocused film.

These scenarios and other assorted pickles are presented throughout almost two hours and ten minutes of action and mystery.  In between, explosions, visual effects and frequent slow motion addle "Sherlock Holmes", which in Mr. Ritchie's hands has a much-needed dynamism but whose visual tricks are best left in one of his smaller films ("Snatch", "Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels").  On a larger-scale canvas Mr. Ritchie's style is exposed and exhausted after just one or two displays of slow-motion depictions of Holmes' surmising and crime-fighting strategies.

Audiences will laugh along with some of the film' crisp, cheeky dialogue but "Sherlock Holmes" needed to be about 20 minutes shorter than it is.  One wonders whether the duration mystery will be solved by Holmes himself or by Ritchie in a follow up film to this one.  Simply put, there's less spice and excitement in this film than there should be.

With: Robert Maillet, Geraldine James, Kelly Reilly, William Houston, Hans Matheson, James Fox, William Hope, Clive Russell, Oren Gurel and David Garrick.

"Sherlock Holmes" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material.  The film's running time is two hours and eight minutes.       


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