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Sherlock Holmes (Blu-ray Review)

26 Mar, 2010 By: John Latchem

Street 3/30/10
Box Office $207.5 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material.
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong.

Director Guy Ritchie brings a heightened sense of fun to his action-infused take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed literary detective.

This is a grittier interpretation than we’re used to seeing, with Holmes presented as anything but the stodgy detective made cliché by countless movies and TV shows. It was the filmmakers’ intent to deconstruct the original novels to provide an interpretation more in line with Doyle’s original vision.

Gone is the deerstalker hat and cloak, swapped out by Robert Downey Jr., still exhibiting the breeziness that made him so cool in Iron Man, as an impulsive and sardonic Holmes who simultaneously must deal with the return of a lost love (Rachel McAdams) and the waning affections of Watson (Jude Law) while investigating a British lord who has apparently risen from the dead to lead a cult in an uprising against Parliament. The ending takes a bit of a cue from Batman Begins, in that the likely villain for the sequel is lurking in the shadows here.

The commanding presence of Downey in the title role holds everything together, and his dynamic with Law as Watson adds a lot to the enjoyment of the film. Watson is presented more as an equal to Holmes rather than a sidekick, lending a palpable “Butch and Sundance” vibe to their relationship.

There are times when the interplay between Downey and Law felt like watching an episode of “House.” That’s probably a good sign for the film, since “House” is based on Sherlock Holmes. (Holmes, Homes, House … get it?) The connection is even more apt since, according to extras on the disc, Doyle apparently based Holmes on an astute doctor he knew who could diagnose any disease shortly after sizing up a patient.

As far as extras go, the 14-minute “Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented” is strictly a by-the-numbers making-of featurette that covers the bases with no real depth. The information is also contained within the much more detailed Maximum Movie Mode on the Blu-ray version, in which Ritchie, looking like a dapper British gentleman, presents his commentary but often excuses himself to let the viewer finish watching a scene (which doesn’t preclude a separate picture-in-picture featurette from interrupting).

The film displays a level of grain that gives it an old-school look. This is an action movie masquerading as a period piece, and one need only watch the extras to see the extent of the visual effects used to fully re-create Victorian London.

The Maximum Movie Mode also offers an extensive glimpse into the making of the movie, and a timeline with information about the lives of Doyle and the characters he created.

Unfortunately that’s the extent of the bonus materials. There are fleeting references to previous adaptations of Holmes, and a good featurette about Holmes fandom, but I think a drawn-out documentary about the history and evolution of the character would have been both appropriate and enlightening.

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