Forgive my use of the overused term "bromance" in my title — it's been bandied about quite a lot this year to describe buddy films. There have been many, but few have had what Sherlock Holmes has: two male leads who really have chemistry.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law play legendary detective Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson in the stylish action comedy from director Guy Ritchie. Ritchie's name is markedly underused in the film's ad campaign, and it's sort of appropriate: gone is the explicit language and sexuality I expected from the gritty filmmaker, best known for Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. That doesn't mean that it's diluted, however; what Ritchie employs is his knack for cool-looking action and clever, funny dialogue. This makes for a movie with mass appeal and allows you to focus on what the film is really about: Holmes and Watson's relationship.
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The 1800s London setting is dark and dreary, and the central case — a supernatural mystery involving a villain named Lord Blackwood — follows suit. Robert Downey Jr.'s face appears tired and haggard but like the case, it's is only a facade. Gray as it is, the movie is really full of fun and lightness. The two lead actors bring such charisma to each of their roles; I was expecting it from the always-wry Downey Jr., but Jude Law caught me off guard. His Watson is jaded and has grown weary of Holmes's antics, but Law is a captivating delight in what could have been a boring role.
Rachel McAdams surfaces as Holmes former love and current nemesis, but she and RDJ have far less chemistry than he does with his male counterpart. That could be because we get almost no romance from Ritchie, who either realized he didn't need it or forgot about it while he was editing in fast-paced cuts and slick flashbacks. Not that I didn't love those, but the trademark techniques become overused in some parts.
My only real complaint is the actual plot — it's like Ritchie has so many other elements of the movie he wanted to get right (the casting, the look) that he overlooked the importance of a compelling mystery. This isn't any old fictional detective, this is Sherlock Holmes. The case Holmes must solve is at first frustrating because it appears to deal with magic, rendering Holmes's renowned logic unnecessary. Then, when his logic prevails and he cracks the case, it's frustrating that the story isn't smarter.
But, the fact that a disappointing plot couldn't ruin the fun for me says a lot about the movie — everything else is incredibly entertaining. The action sequences are the best part, but what's even more awesome is that they compete with the witty dialogue, which competes with the acting which . . . oh, you get it.
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.