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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 21, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

SIR ARTHUR Conan Dolye wrote 56 short stories and 4 novels about Sherlock Holmes, the sleuth best known for saying "Elementary, my dear Watson" who antedated the detectives created by Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner in deciphering clues. He's been portrayed before on screen by Basil Rathbone, notably in "The Hound of the Baskervilles", one of his most famous stories.

Now comes a modern re-imagining by Director Guy Ritchie, Madonna's ex, and he turns Holmes into a swashbuckling action hero for today's viewers who get easily bored, just like old TV shows that were made more action-oriented when they were remade into movies, like "Maverick", "Wild Wild West" and "Starsky and Hutch".
The movie starts with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and his friend, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), saving the latest victim of a serial killer, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who has killed five other young women before. Blackwood is sentenced to be hanged but before he's executed, he warns Holmes this will not stop him from sowing more mayhem. Soon there is a report that just like Dracula, he has risen from his grave and this is because Blackwood dabbles in the dark arts, being a member of a secret society that indulges in magic and the occult. His objective is to take over the Parliament, rule England and conquer the world, just like those villains in James Bond flicks.

Holmes and Watson still live in 221B Baker St. (as any Holmes fan would know) and he has to deal with the fact that Watson wants to leave him to marry his fiancee Mary (Kelly Reilly). An old flame of his also shows up, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), and he suspects that she's up to some mischief.

While Holmes tries to figure out the convoluted mystery of the resurrected Blackwood, we also get to see him bicker with Watson, get into streetfighting, fight a giant of a villain with an electrified tuning fork, while the villain continues to wreak havoc all around until the last 15 minutes or so when all the gaping plot holes are filled out in the usual lengthy explanation sequence at the climax. It's like after rambling on for two hours, they want to fast-forward everything.

As expected, Downey is fine as the title-roler. He's not what you expect Conan Doyle's hero would be, but for Ritchie's version, he fills the bill as the brainy, impulsive and hyperactive Holmes of the new millenium who no longer says "Elementary, my dear Watson". To show his acumen for deduction, Ritchie sometimes dramatizes on screen in slow motion what he intends to do with an opponent before actually doing it, like some sort of a flashforward. But although he's excellent here, Downey is still better as the rich magnate in "Iron Man" and polls show viewers are waiting more for his "Iron Man 2" than for "Sherlock Holmes".
Jude Law also fares well as the doctor who fights like a ninja but he should do something with his receding line that's exposing more and more of his forehead. Mark Strong is convincing as the delusional villain and he looks like a young Andy Garcia.

Rachel McAdams does little and it's only in the climax that we see more of her. Her Irene Adler was seen only in one of Holmes' 60 stories, "A Scandal in Bohemia", but through the decades, Holmes fans regard her as the unnattainable love interest. It's only after Holmes finally get rid of Blackwell that her true purpose in the movie is revealed. She introduces the next adversary in the sequel, Prof. Moriarty, and we heard it's going to be played by Brad Pitt.

Well, this movie did well at the U.S. box office during the holiday season so we won't be surprised if they'd have a sequel soon, making Downey the new king of sequels. But we wish they'd get someone else to direct Part 2. We've been to London a couple of times and Tower Bridge, where the climax takes place, is several kilometers away from the Parliament building. But here, Holmes and company get into the sewer under the Parliament and quickly emerge at the Tower Bridge which is shown to be still under construction. How did it happen? But you cannot fault the film's production design. They've re-created Victorian England in the most spectacular way. The Tower Bridge, the River Thames below, and all kinds of seafaring vehicles in it are also all wonderfully conjured for the big screen, all enhanced by Hans Zimmer's wonderful and energetic musical score.