More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look62.5%
Average: 16.67%
Pretty Bad: 6.25%
Total Crap: 2.08%

4 reviews, 24 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something by Rob Gonsalves

Trial of the Chicago 7, The by Rob Gonsalves

St. Elmo's Fire by Jack Sommersby

Talent for the Game by Jack Sommersby

Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro by Jay Seaver

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm by Peter Sobczynski

Lupin the Third (2014) by Jay Seaver

Lupin III: The First by Jay Seaver

Caddyshack by Jack Sommersby

Over the Moon by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"This Christmas goose doesn't have a blue carbuncle, but is still tasty."
4 stars

Unlike a lot of fans, I'm not pessimistic by nature, and at no point from the announcement of this new Sherlock Holmes movie to plunking down seven bucks for it was I ever not looking forward to it. Sure, it would be different, but the best and most memorable Sherlock productions have been different from what came before, all the way back to William Gillette ending his stage adaptation with Holmes getting hitched. The new version follows this tradition, and if I have complaints, I suspect they're more a result of my not being quite so open-minded as I think myself to be as anything Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr., and company have done.

The film opens on a chase through Victorian London, as consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Downey), his friend and partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), and Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) hunt down a missing girl who has fallen under the spell of a supposed sorcerer. That villain is revealed to be Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who refuses to stay in his grave after being hanged, even though Watson pronounced the man dead himself. This supposed resurrection occurs at roughly the same time Holmes is visited by Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), an American con artist with a commission from a mysterious figure to find a missing person, and as Watson plans his marriage to the lovely Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), despite Holmes's attempts at sabotage.

When pitching the return of Sherlock Holmes to the big screen, the producers famously used a comic book style mockup to demonstrate their vision of Holmes as a man of action, and it's not a bad way to frame the character. Though he predates them, Holmes has always been a superhero - or at least pulp hero - in the mold of Batman or Doc Savage, with remarkable powers of observation and the ability to pull disparate facts together. The original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories at various times referred to his skills at bareknuckle boxing and the (invented) Japanese martial art baritsu; he's also described as a master of disguise, can bend a steel rod back into shape, and has a small army of street urchins who scour London for clues. The four credited writers actually scale this back a little by just showing Holmes as having a quick-working mind and thus able to anticipate his opponents in a brawl. The stories themselves have always been combinations of mystery, horror, and pulp adventure, with the mystery actually the weakest parts; what the four credited writers create here is certainly in the spirit of the original stories, if a bit grander in scale.

Of course, even though there's an argument to be made that portraying Holmes as a two-fisted but brainy pulp hero is something vaguely back to basics, Downey and Law are playing the characters with a very twenty-first century feel. They're quippy and more prone to emotional outbursts than Victorian reserve. Downey plays Holmes as roguish, with a twinkle in his eye that tends to make Holmes's bad behavior and habits somewhat charming. He's a Holmes that not only doesn't care what others think, but is sure that they like him despite their voiced disapproval. Law invests Watson with an aggressiveness even beyond what the screenplay calls for; you can tell that he's kind of had it with being Holmes's enabler, and throws himself into fights with a fierceness that has seldom been seen from the character, even though he's always has a soldier's background.

Like most Holmes stories, this one rises and falls on the back of the Holmes/Watson pairing, and the other characters are more than a bit secondary and less memorable. Mark Strong is a fierce-looking villain, but not quite so charismatic as to explain why he not only has henchmen, but followers. Kelly Reilly is a likable Mary Morstan (albeit one who apparently never came to Holmes and Watson about a mysterious treasure), but kind of fits in as a generic fiancée, rather than being specifically the heroine of The Sign of Four. Rachel MacAdams is enjoyable as Irene Adler, though, a seductress without being too obvious about it, and it's not hard to believe that Holmes might find her his equal (and be disturbed by that). Wrestler Robert Maillet is certainly a memorable physical presence.

They're all put to good use, though. The story is a little reliant on anachronisms, but the secret societies and conspiracies are fun, appropriately 19th-century but also familiar to a modern audience. Holmes and Watson may be quippier than usual, but they're fun to watch banter, and most members of the supporting cast have their good bits. Though there's a bit of a tease for future movies, this story does not feel incomplete. The action scenes are cleverly conceived, in locations as varied as a drydock, an underground cult lair, and the as-yet-completed Tower Bridge.

Guy Ritchie does a nice job staging them. He turns out to be a fine match to the material, and as much as the movie is fast-paced and quick-cut, he seems a bit more relaxed as a director-for-hire, able to put his stamp on the material but not apparently feeling the need to prove himself as has seemed to be the case on everything he's done from Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrells to RocknRolla. He does a nice job of showing us how Holmes's mind works without resorting to lectures (either the "all the suspects in one room" type or "how can you possibly have known... Extraordinary!" variety).

There were times when the movie seemed a little off to me, but I've been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for most of my life, and my head is full of ideas of what a Holmes story should be like, no matter how I try to put them aside. I still had a great time, though, and my younger brother (who like most humans wasn't nearly as burdened with expectations as I was) enjoyed it without reservation. It's maybe not your father's Sherlock Holmes, but that's been the case for the better part of a century.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/30/09 15:48:19
[printer] printer-friendly format  
Features Sherlock Holmes For more in the Sherlock Holmes series, click here.

User Comments

5/13/17 the sayer of the truth This film is a laughable joke, its totally unwatchable. 1 stars
9/09/11 Nancy I believe that Downey Jr did a wonderful job of playing Sherlock Holmes Great movie to see 4 stars
10/28/10 Ryan J. Marshall Well acted, and for the most part, well made; "Sherlock Holmes" is pure entertainment. 3 stars
9/07/10 thingone Rewatched the Blu-ray for the first time in ages and loved Downey's characterization. 4 stars
8/16/10 the dork knight Not my preferred Holmes, but entertaining enough. 5 stars
5/14/10 Lisa Okay, but this is not Sherlock Holmes. Should have made up a new character. 4 stars
4/12/10 mr.mike It was "no bad". 4 stars
4/10/10 Monday Morning Definitely a cut above - good story, action and chem. btwn. actors. 4 stars
3/06/10 Ron Newbold Purists may rebel but this is a fast paced fun movie 5 stars
3/03/10 Stanley Thai Sure, it's not the greatest film of all time but it sure is wildly entertaining. 4 stars
2/14/10 R.W.Welch Maybe a tad overdone, but entertaining opus with good camera work. 4 stars
1/20/10 Mike Awesome. Great acting, great story, great action. 5 stars
1/13/10 Quirinius Snobb Despite emphasis on action, holmes' character is closer to Doyle's than expected 4 stars
1/12/10 Steve I didn't know that Sherlock Holmes was such a "badass" - fighting everthing in sight. 4 stars
1/07/10 CactusJohn Sloppy direction, dull beyond belief, poor cinematography, huge disappointment! 2 stars
1/05/10 MP Bartley Lots of fun. Downey Jr is terrific as per, and even Law is good fun. 4 stars
1/04/10 Ethan IT OWNED! Loved the high speed camera shots before Holmes took someone down 5 stars
1/03/10 wilde It was incredibly entertaining, but the story won't satisfy a Holmes enthusiast. 4 stars
12/31/09 Dr. Frank Doogans I have a big penis. 5 stars
12/30/09 action movie fan good period atmosphere but dull story kills it 2 stars
12/27/09 ph4nt0m Sloppy screenplay but entertaining movie thanks to the cast 4 stars
12/27/09 Koitus I thought it was okay. Hard to follow the dialog! Also, ending summation was "fast." 3 stars
12/26/09 rawan I loved this movie!! 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  25-Dec-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Mar-2010


  DVD: 30-Mar-2010

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast