Sherlock Holmes *** (out of ****)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg based loosely on the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly
Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material)
Running Time: 128 min
Release Date (wide): 12/25/09

Sherlock Homes is yet another example of a trend to remake every classic story into an action movie. Guy Rithie’s treatment of Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is to turn him into fighter rather than a thinker. I’ve noticed the same trend in recent remakes such as the Mission Impossible movies or the later installments of the James Bond franchise. I’d hate to think what a current director would do with a Columbo movie!

On the other hand, Richie’s recreation of a gritty Victorian England environs is quite striking. This film takes us into a coal driven economy with out any “clean air” standards. It takes us to the packing houses and ship yards of the era. While I do criticize the character presentation, I must complement the set development and CGI effects of this movie.

So we have an updated and rather more vigorous Holmes sans the deer stalker hat. A Dr. Watson (Jude Law) who is far more fit and good looking that is traditional. This Holmes still retains most of the deductive stills in many ways he more like a Victorian “Batman” without the disguise. The villain is Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong) who is reputed to be a master of the black arts. In one scene he is in a prison cell reciting a passage from Revelations 13:1-13.3. So I guess we know who he is aspiring to be.

In the opening senses Holmes apprehends Blackwell to save a young lady from being a human sacrifice. Blackwell is sent to the gallows for the murder of pervious ladies not so fortunate, pronounced dead by Dr. Watson (he’s the coroner too?), and buried. After which Holmes has an unpleasant dinner with Watson and Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). It seems Holmes is rather upset at having a woman distract his helper from their detective work and goes into a bit of a funk until news comes that Lord Blackwell has come back from the dead giving him renewed purpose.

Also, back is Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), Holmes’ female nemesis which schemes of her own. Her machinations are basically a distraction from the main plot by Blackwell. It seems Blackwell is part of an occult order that has men in high places throughout Her Majesties Government. By killing of his opponents by means that appear to be magic he plans to take charge not only of this cabal but also to launch New Order and to retake the former colonies.

Holmes has to unravel the plot before based on clues provided by a series of deaths. Here Holmes reverts to classic from using his knowledge of science to sweep back the appearance of black magic. But, in the end he again reverts to super hero to same Parliament and to defeat Blackwell. If one can get past the revisionist Holmes and Dr. Watson, we have solid action film. It isn’t what I was expecting but it was an interesting treatment of a classic.

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