When I saw Sherlock Holmes I had neither read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries or watched BBC’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett. As a young reader, I was keen on Agatha Christie’s Poirot. I both read the books and watched the television series. I couldn’t resist the gentlemanly, impeccable, thorough French detective named Hercule. So you may understand my shock as the modern, edgy incarnation of Doyle’s classic character introduced himself by flashing across the scene in a series of fist fights.
As it turns out, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes might not be far off the mark. Okay, so I still haven’t read the books but cheating Spark Notes style, the infamous detective is a fighter. In fact, he is skilled in many weapons and styles. He is eccentric, as Robert Downey, Jr. brilliantly portrays, with a method to his madness, though also kempt, which Downey does not portray (maybe it’s the long, greasy hair?).
Personal neatness is Holmes only similarity to Poirot, it seems. Now knowing what to expect, I might appreciate this adaptation a bit more and like the character more for who he is.
However, not unique to the mystery genre, is the incredibly annoying practice of withholding information which the main character observed all along until the end of the story even though the story is from that character’s perspective. Murder on the Orient Express was the worst offender and turned me off to mystery for years. Thankfully, Christie’s most praised and beloved novel is still the worst offender. Sherlock Holmes is only a minor offender and for that Ritchie deserves some props.
The stylization of the film was amazing – upping the ante on the aforementioned TV series with even more sepia tones and even harsher dissonance. But Ritchie goes a little.too.far in trying to be edgy and ends up in the macabre. There must be at least half a dozen flashbacks to a particular corpse-filled coffin and sometimes when it isn’t immediately relevant.
All in all, I’d probably conclude the film to be mediocre if it weren’t for two performances. Mark Strong, as always, plays a spine-chilling villian and Rachel McAdams surprises with a new saucy kind of role. (I didn’t even recognize her at first.) I really hope to see her in the next Sherlock film.