01 January 2010

Cop, Doc and Two Smoking Barrels

So I drift down through the Baker Street valley,
In my steep-sided un-reality.
And when all is said and all is done
I couldn't wish for a better one.
It's a real-life ripe dead certainty
That I'm just a Baker Street Muse.

-- Jethro Tull, Baker Street Muse

Having spent a year living in a mews just off Baker Street (and another three months living five minutes' walk from 221B Baker Street), I couldn't not go to see Guy Ritchie's new Sherlock Holmes movie. In fact, I'd been looking forward to it pretty much since it was announced, although, of course, none of the filming was actually done in or near Baker Street or its mewses, as far as I could determine. As the aesthetics of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are not unappealing to me, this was a great disappointment.

I was, however, more pleasantly surprised to hear that on its release, the film received a fair number of positive reviews and certainly, it sure ain't like any other Sherlock Holmes film I've seen (although admittedly, the only one I can remember is the Basil Rathbone version of The Hound of the Baskervilles). That's all right, though, because I haven't seen any other Guy Ritchie films either; I have been tempted to see Lock, Stock... to tick another film off the IMDb top 250 but I never quite got round to it.

There are, unsurprisingly, great fight sequences including a stunning finale high in the rafters of an as yet unfinished Tower Bridge with, of course, plenty of breath-taking views of the 19th century London skyline. In some of the earlier scenes, Holmes appears to be being thrashed in a fight only for him to turn it around, with the action being paused or taken into slow mo so that he can narrate to the audience in a very clinical manner the moves he will make to overpower his opponent. The mystery and its resolution was suitably satisfying--Jonathan Creek would be very impressed. Rachel McAdams, playing Irene Adler (who could well have been nicknamed the Muse of Baker Street), was very charming as Holmes's one-time lover who is, ironically, a criminal. Thomas Cranmer--I mean, Hans Matheson--was quite an attractive if nominatively deterministic baddie as Lord Coward.

It is Downey Jr and Law as Holmes and Watson, their relationship and their chemistry that carry the film along, though. Holmes spends most of the film sulking because Watson is moving out of their Baker Street flat and moving in with his soon-to-be wife, Mary. As such, Watson doesn't have time to help Holmes anymore and keeps trying to run off to meet his future in-laws instead of solving crying (this would be, I can imagine, a tough call).But, of course, despite his best efforts Watson won't abandon his old friend when it comes down to it and the two, along with the Muse of Baker Street, team up to avert a deadly plot and tie up loose ends. Downey Jr's comic timing is, as ever, excellent, and his version of the ultra-observant, ingenious, stubborn and OCD detective is very entertaining.

In fact, my main worry is that there will be a sequel, which inevitably won't live up to the expectations set by this first...

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