It’s not really a reboot – was there a Sherlock Holmes franchise that needed an update? – but more of a re-envisioning project that is very much a Guy Ritchie film. It feels a little like a mash-up between Fight Club (for atmosphere), Snatch (fight sequences), and mandolin-driven soundtrack and, well, Sherlock Holmes. Only, if it was just that easy, and it couldn’t have been, it would have been done long before.
The pairing of Robert Downey and Jude Law works, and works surprisingly well. The two have chemistry, and succeed in their respective roles playing off one another. This revision of Sherlock has Downey something of a menace who *needs* to use his formidable, sometimes even crippling observation abilities, lest he become a problem to himself. Whether it be as an occasional pugilist (the fight scenes where he mentally deconstructs his approach are a highlight) or a barely-reluctant analyzer of a woman’s former past, this Sherlock appears to be almost a victim of his mental sharpness. In a brief moment before he meets Watson’s lady in a restaurant, Sherlock’s gaze about the room ends with him habitually focusing on his watch’s ticking – this implication being there may be something mentally off about this Holmes. Downey plays the role as his own and my only complaint is that his English accent is so quick that it is sometimes hard to catch.
Law’s Watson is ruled by his own demons, although he ostensibly has put a leash on his gambling habits. I’d not thought of Law as playing a tough, but he does it convincingly. His care for Holmes – really he knows his friend better than most and knows he needs help – is palpable despite the character’s mask of disdain.
A little less effective is Rachel MacAdam’s turn as Holmes’ love/foil Irene Adler, if for nothing else than the chemistry between Downey and her falls a little short. Mark Strong seems to be making a sweet living playing villains of all sorts (see Green Lantern, Kick Ass), and knocks it out of the park with Blackwood’s sneering, supernatural threat. (Downey and Strong, *do* have great chemistry when onscreen.)
Sherlock Holmes is eminently watchable and rewarding, especially repeat viewings.