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Sacha Howells

Blu-ray Review: Sherlock Holmes

Ritchie reinvents Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character as a manic-depressive bare-knuckle boxer. And while there may be a handful of purists who prefer the old deerstalker hat and magnifying glass, most people will have a lot more fun with this barn-burning run through Victorian London.

When Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson catch a member of the House of Lords in the middle of a ritual murder, his next stop is the gallows. But once Lord Blackwood appears to be killing from beyond the grave, Holmes’ infamous logic runs up against black magic. Ritchie’s vision of Holmes turns him into a sort of 19th-century superhero, and while there are plenty of the trappings of a historical mystery — secret societies, a mysterious woman from Holmes’ past, and a touch of DaVinci Code puzzle solving — it’s an action movie at heart, with plenty of fighting, explosions, and last-minute escapes.

Ritchie’s London is grubby and chaotic, and shot with a dark, sepia-toned palette. One of his innovations (he calls it “Holmes-o-vision”) gives a great visual representation of Holmes’ mind at work: time slows as his obsessive eye focuses on a smudge of chalk or a muddy boot and he jumps to a deduction. But some of the grander effects, like the half-built London Bridge, are way too obviously digital, without the mass and scale that would make them feel real.

Beyond the action and explosions — and they are impressive — the dynamic between Robert Downy Jr.‘s Sherlock and Jude Law‘s Watson is great. They bicker and banter like an old married couple, and their relationship makes the film more than just a Victorian Bond movie.

Downey is perfectly cast as the rough-and-tumble Holmes, and he’s one of those few Americans who can actually pull off an English accent. Law, playing against type as the buttoned-down Watson, turns him into more than just a sidekick, and Mark Strong‘s Lord Blackwood is sinister without going over the top. The weak link is Rachel McAdams. She doesn’t have the charisma or personality to pull off what should have been a great role, and her limp Irene Adler leaves a void at the heart of the picture.

The Blu-ray comes with a DVD version and a digital copy, and the Blu-ray disc has a nice array of extras. The Maximum Movie Mode ramps up the standard commentary with “walk-ons” from Ritchie, where the director appears on-screen to explain a scene or an angle with picture-in-picture story boards, sketches, and behind-the-scenes footage, with loads of technical info that movie buffs will love. There are also 8 five-minute “focus point” featurettes that look at different aspects of making the movie and a 14-minute “Sherlock Holmes Revisited” that repeats some of the other behind-the-scenes footage, basically an ad for the movie you’ve just seen.

Sherlock Holmes is a smart, stylish action movie and scored huge at the box office, and now a sequel’s on the way, with Brad Pitt in talks to play Moriarty. As the man would say, “The franchise is afoot.”

Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray] is available now from Warner Brothers.

Categories: DVD

Tags: Blu-ray reviews, Robert downey jr., Sherlock holmes

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