May 24, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Today's movie: Sherlock Holmes, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the new extreeeeme!!! version of the venerable Victorian detective classic, a comeback vehicle for semi-floundering director Guy Ritchie, who throughout the '90s was breathlessly referred to as "the British Tarantino," until everyone got sick of Tarantinoesque movies right around September 11th or so.

The reality: Extreeeeeme!!! So okay, it's true that it took me a good half-hour or so of this movie before finally getting on board with what Ritchie was trying to do; because to Holmes purists like me, this film can easily come off at first as merely silly and insulting, full of MTV-style slow-fast-slow shots of bare-knuckle boxing and with all the main characters anachronistically sporting trendy contemporary haircuts. But then when you do get on board with Ritchie's vision, you suddenly realize that this is actually the big-budget Alan Moore adaptation that Alan Moore's work has always deserved from Hollywood but has never received, cleverly combining the mystical conspiracy theories of his From Hell (all the way down to the idea of a serial killer's murder locations forming a pattern overlaid on the streets of London) with the pure hutzpah of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, not to mention the sheer grand vastness of his speculative background images. (In fact, this is nearly worth the rental price of this DVD alone, to witness some of the most impressive CG matte images yet made in movie history, literally transporting us into what it must've been like to actually walk the streets of 1800s London, albeit the most insanely stylized version of 1800s London ever come up with by the human imagination.)

And in keeping with Moore's habit as well of literary revisionism, Ritchie presents us here with an Asberger-suffering Holmes who dresses like Oscar Wilde, may or may not be bisexual, and doesn't need opium to amuse himself between cases because of simply being semi-insane just all the time anyway; and God help them if they don't manage to indeed pull it off, thanks mostly to a gravitas-infused performance by Robert Downey Jr., and the natural rapport he has with Jude Law's Dr. Watson (who ironically is interpreted more strictly from the book than perhaps any other film adaptation in history -- after all, far from the bumbling fool he was depicted as in the Basil Rathbone films of the 1940s, Watson in the books was supposed to be author Arthur Conan Doyle's literary stand-in, a good-looking and war-decorated military veteran who was Holmes' equal in street smarts and derring-do, which of course is why Holmes liked spending time with him in the first place). Like I said, it takes some adjusting of your mindset to get fully in the mood for this slap-bang adaptation, with Victoriana purists likely never to warm to it; but if you're a steampunk fan, and wish to see what's now undoubtedly the most intensely steampunky steampunk actioner ever yet committed to celluloid, I heartily recommend picking this up and strapping yourself in for the ride.

Strangest piece of trivia: The set used to depict 221B Baker Street is the same one used for Sirius Black's house in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Worth your time? Yes, if you're in the right frame of mind

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:27 PM, May 24, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |