Dec 28, 2009

He's No Sherlock

What a waste of money and talent, this Sherlock Holmes film.
A lot of busy flair but no finesse, no panache, no elegance, not much wit, no suspense. Just another bloated entertainment that confuses action with cramming the frame with every Victorian knickknack available (this is entertaining for about half an hour).
The movie starts well enough but it soon squanders our good will with sloppy action sequences and bad direction.
I love RDJ, but I'm getting tired of his shtick. Unfortunately, like most American actors, he is incapable of doing an accent. Therefore, Sherlock Holmes, the most articulate of men, spends half the movie mumbling. The other half, he spends looking like a deer caught in the headlights, trying to look intelligent. I was thinking of Clive Owen. He, at least, would have had the right accent, and the right demeanor. The problem with Downey, besides the accent, is that he is about as British as a surfer dude. He is a natural American ham, so he doesn't have the restraint, the repression, the sangfroid that the character requires. I did not get a lot of chemistry between him and his adored Watson, played, as if the film's exertions were exhausting him, by Jude Law.  
There was potential to this movie. It is about superstition versus reason, or what I think is the actual topic, religious fanaticism, versus reason. But instead of you-know- which religious fanatics, we have some sort of idiotic demonic society with a lot of Hebrew lettering (and me wondering if this is revenge on the Kabbalistic ex-wife of the director, aka Esther) and a plot, that is "so diabolical that it fails to be interesting", as A. O Scott said so adroity.
The whole point of the character of Sherlock Holmes is that he solves the cases by his wits, not with his fists. This Sherlock Holmes always enters fighting. Don't men get ever tired of going to blows? Why is this interesting?  What's worse, there is no sense of discovery, or aha, which is why one likes detective stories. The movie is a concatenation of useless set pieces but no real sleuthing.
Had the movie been directed by someone like Steven Spielberg or John Woo, people who are geniuses at devising action sequences that are both witty, over the top and nailbiting, it could have been an interesting franchise, but it was directed by the wrecking ball that is Guy Ritchie, a guy with the storytelling abilities and the attention span of a music video. So the bag of music video tricks from the 90's gets old very fast. The action sequences are neither fun nor suspenseful and the movie becomes extremely tedious. Yet, it is cynical enough to keep a sequel in mind, with another arch-nemesis. This time, instead of superstition, the enemy will be a professor (intellectuals are always suspect in mindless entertainments).
Hopefully next time they get someone better at the helm.

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