Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) ON THE OTHER HAND . . . unlike the BBC-TV series "SHERLOCK" which I reviewed below, SHERLOCK HOLMES takes place in it's traditional Victorian setting. The recent blockbuster directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law has been getting a lot of bad word of mouth from several friends who saw it and warned me off. However, as always, I reserve judgment for myself and form no preconceptions until I've actually seen a film. As of this date, I have seen only two Guy Ritchie films; this one and SNATCH (which I liked very much). Friend Weaverman, in his recent savage but succinct "review" of SHERLOCK HOLMES has gone on record as not being a fan of Mr. Ritchie; he referred me to the fact that the director's work is called "Mockney" in it's inaccuracy and English stereotypes. I can't speak for the other films in Ritchie's oeuvre (and Weaverman admittedly has not seen SNATCH as yet) but SHERLOCK HOLMES is a different kettle of fish from Ritchie's norm. I can say that SHERLOCK HOLMES is actually quite a fun thrill-ride with expert direction by Guy Ritchie from a superb screenplay penned by Messrs Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg and Lionel Wigram. I can say that Downey and Law do a fantastic acting job and that this new look at Arthur Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective is fresh and original. I can say all that . . . but I'd be lying. The film is pure shit.
I am certainly no rabid Sherlock Holmes fanatic. I have read the stories and seen quite a few of the films but I am no obsessive. Therefore I'm not going to go on about any "sacriligeous corruption of the canonical material". However, I will say that Weaverman's comparison between SCHLOCK HOLMES and VAN HELSING is quite apt. I got an eerie sense of deja-vu while watching SCHLOCK HOLMES and it did remind me quite a bit of that steaming pile of werewolf shit called VAN HELSING. The problem is not so much with Guy Ritchie's direction (although he brings absolutely nothing to the material but cliched MTV quick editing apparently accomplished with a dull meat cleaver) but with the absolutely appalling screenplay. The amount of writers who produced said script should give you pause; it's a screenplay by committee in the usual modern Hollywood manner. When I say that the viewer has absolutely no idea what exactly the plot of the film is meant to be ONE SOLID HOUR INTO THE FILM I'm not exaggerating. The first hour of the movie is merely a string of "meet cute" scene followed by "cutesy set pieces" scene followed by a scene demonstrating how "cute those eccentric English people are when they're being eccentric" twaddle which only demonstrates lazy American screenwriting to engage the dwindling attention span of the average filmgoer. This is not a screenplay; it's a sketch show of pointless, non-plot-motivated scenes stitched together for no apparent purpose other than to make box office dollars. One might as well call it "SHERLOCK GUMP" and get it over with. The plot (such as it is) seems to concern a Lord Blackwood who is hanged for crimes including the practice of black magic (I'm sure there are hundreds of such cases of capital punishment for THAT crime in late Victorian England) and moidering several women in occult sacrifices. There is apparently some mealy-mouthed attempt to tie these killings (of 5 women the script pointedly informs us) in with the Jack the Ripper murders in the minds of mouth-breathing audience members even though Lord Blackwood is OBVIOUSLY not Jack the Ripper and the killings do not occur in the way Saucy Jack chose to dispatch his victims. The mere suggestion is sloppily floated out there for those uninformed audience members to latch onto in a frankly cowardly attempt to link THIS film with a more interesting subject. Be that as it may, Blackwood is hanged but apparently comes back to life. Why? Well, some vague master plan which isn't really made clear until the film is 2/3rds over. What does this mean in terms of the film. It means simply that Sherlock Holmes is investigating . . . well, nothing in particular. Somebody reports having seen the dead Lord Blackwood walking around and the police (who ridiculously take this as gospel truth) ask Holmes to investigate and HE DOES (?!?). With no real evidence that the eyewitness hasn't just seen someone RESEMBLING the dead man. Eventually, the so-called plot is revealed as some sort of attempt to take over Parliament and destroy the world . . . or take it over . . . or something or other. It's never made quite clear either. Why someone should need to take over Parliament in order to do this doesn't make much sense either; yet a good number of MPs apparently think it's a good idea and fall in line with Blackwood. Yeah, perfectly reasonable, innit?
Ah well, enough of what passes for a plot. Needless to say, the entire script is a shoddy mess obviously patched together by committee from a pile of failed earlier attempts. The direction, as I've said, is pedestrian and actually annoying in spots. The acting? Well, Jude Law has never been in a good film as far as I have seen and this outting doesn't impress me. I'm sure the guy MUST be capable of good work but there is certainly nothing for him to do in THIS role. Robert Downey Jr., of whom I'm something of a fan, here performs shamelessly. Downey's Holmes is a ridiculous combination of silly eccentric quirks, outrageous camp and downright childish petulance; certainly nothing like the character as written by Doyle or as performed by I don't know how many other actors. Downey Jr. in fact performs as if he's in a comedy; unfortunately the film is not a comedy and his performance is merely annoying. One can tell that Mr. Downey, after having read the cobbled-together script, is merely collecting a paycheck. And who can really blame him? The film looks pretty in places with its CGI'ed gloomy, stormy skies but the incredibly silly trope of placing futuristic gadgets in Victorian settings has really run it's course, don't you think? And Sherlock Holmes, reknowned for his deductive reasoning, barely uses it at all in this film but merely stomps around the film like Sam the Butcher. THIS is the world's greatest detective with the keenest analytical mind on earth?!? Not bloody likely! Oh yeah, and this brings me to the fact that several scenes and ideas have been swiped from other movies. Merely one example would be the boxing match (you heard me) between Sherlock Holmes and a big bruiser: this scene reminded me MUCH TOO MUCH of a similar scene in ONG BAK in which the big terrifying fighter challenges all comers only to be vanquished quickly by an unlikely opponent (Robert Downey Jr. in this film, Tony Jaa in the other). Now MAYBE Guy Ritchie never saw ONG BAK . . . and maybe he did . . . however the fact that SCHLOCK HOLMES is so derivative and unoriginal I am more than justified in bringing up the possibility.
I usually don't waste my time with an obviously inferior film like SCHLOCK HOLMES on this blog because a) I like to focus on the positive elements of even mediocre films and b) because it's just not worth my time to waste on obviously empty cookie cutter product like SCHLOCK HOLMES. Hell, it's more fulfilling to watch ANUS MAGILLICUTTY! But I'm just so tired of seeing Hollywood film after Hollywood film that not only endlessly recycles other films but also treats me (and you the viewing audience) as if we were complete morons who don't remember anything over five years old. It's offensive and I wish it would stop. Perhaps one more little diatribe against the current mercenary habit of non-filmmakers producing films to dump on an unsuspecting public might do some good. Somehow I think I'm just wasting my breath.


Ollie said...

I understand all of your well-argued points and agree. I enjoyed the film on the big-screen to some degree and couldn't sit still thru its DVD-on-TV. A fly was buzzing around. A cloud passed thru the sky. I heard wind. ANYTHING was a distraction from this first Re-Watching, and that says a LOT. "Just can't hold my interest without paying for it and driving to the theater."

There is one worthwhile counterpoint. Growing up with George 'Typecast' Reeves, I appreciate any Comic-Book-Character actor stretching out and doing anything else.

And in this case, "Anything Else" takes Downey way out there as a limit to my patience. ReWatching, to me, is a critical point for a film's worthiness. It will be a long LONG time before I pop this into the DVD player again, which isn't a good sign.

wellyousaythat said...

Yeah Guy Richie is synonimus with style over content. I think Weavermans succinct summary said it all.
By the way love the ' new frontier' heading; Darwyn Cooke at his best
from 'wellyousaythat'

Fink Master Flash said...

Dude, you had me going there for a second. Then you said it was 'pure shit' and I promptly breathed a sigh of relief.

This is one of the worst films I have seen in a while and yes, Van Helsing comes to mind. Then again, there was 2012.

When the wife said she enjoyed this movie, I could feel a piece of my soul die.

I mean, did they have to slowly play out an action moment with Downey bear narrating over it just to play it out two seconds later?!