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“Sherlock Holmes” {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner Brothers
Release Date:
Special Features:

PIP commentary track with “Maximum Movie Mode”, featurettes, DVD of the movie/Digital download


“Sherlock Holmes” reinvents a key character from literature as a flawed action hero with issues but, more importantly, the film also reinvents his sidekick Watson and makes him as capable as Holmes and more than willing to mix it up with his mentor and occasionally hygiene challenged friend. Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” contemporary take on the character both plays with the expectations of the audience (if they even remember Holmes keep in mind we’re living in an age of media saturated children/adults who have the attention span of a gnat) and reconfirms the characters of Holmes as a flawed, brilliant man who lives only for his next mission and genuinely seems lost and without purpose if he doesn’t have a “job”. ***

Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong) has been terrorizing London using the black arts to kill a series of women in pursuit of one goal—the power to shape a nation. Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.—perfectly cast I might add) and Watson (also perfectly cast) capture Blackwell on their last case together sending the villain to the gallows for murder. Why is this their last case? Watson is in love and engaged to marry having already made plans to move out of the Baker Street address that he has shared with Holmes all these years. Holmes is quite naturally jealous and petulant about losing his best friend but as luck would have it Watson and Holmes are drawn back together when Lord Blackwell appears to have risen from the dead and continues to terrorize London. Complicating this case is Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) a brilliant criminal and also the love of Holmes life. Adler reappears an offers Holmes a case that curiously ties in to the disappearance of Blackwell. ***

The pacing and direction of Ritchie keeps the audience involved and prevents the complicated plot from becoming a whirlwind of confusion for viewers. The screenplay which credits three writers not including the story contribution from Ritchie moves with the speed of a spinning top but never manages to lose its momentum largely due to the energetic performances of the cast. Although the villain(s) may lack depth Holmes and Watson more than make up for the one-dimensional nature of the bad guys in the film with a pair of quirky endearing performances that recall the best buddy films of the past 40 years. In many respects “Sherlock Holmes” imagines our hero as Indiana Jones with emotional baggage and that’s precisely why “Sherlock Holmes” works so well. ---

Image & Sound:

Considering that this is a period piece Ritchie’s look for the film remains curious—the film lacks the rich colors and contrast that one might expect of a Victorian film going a dark, moody look that favors washed colors in favor of a drab look. Perhaps Ritchie was shooting at capturing the often dirty, grungy look of the Victorian era add a layer of grim reality to the film. Either way, the film looks quite nice regardless of the color scheme. You may argue with Ritchie’s “look” for the film (I did when watching it) but the transfer is nearly flawless. ***

Having also seen the DVD the Blu-ray is a marked improvement. The DVD lacks the detail and suffers from numerous artifacts. It’s probably one of the worst DVD transfers I’ve seen from Warner outside of “The Dark Knight” in recent memory. ***

Audio boasts a powerful 5.1 DTS-HD lossless presentation that allows every detail to be heard from the original theatrical presentation. It’s a nice involving audio presentation with a marvelous sound stage. ---

Special Features:

The Blu-ray comes with plenty of extras compared to the standard DVD edition but they are still a bit underwhelming at times. ***

The video commentary “Maximum Movie Mode” that Warner has employed so well with other movies is impressive. Ritchie appears in this pip commentary track providing lots of interesting insights and points about some of the choices he made as director and pointing out bits of trivia tied into Holmes lore. ***

“Drawbridges & Dollies” focuses on the recreation of London in 1895 (the year London Bridge was constructed and which plays a role in the film as well). “Not a Deerstalker Cap in Sight” looks at the costume choices including the decision to eschew the clichés that have become associated with the Holmes films (although they weren’t in the original Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle). “Ba-Ritsu: A Tutorial” focuses on the fights in the film and “Perfecting Sherlock’s Accent” lets us discover the “voice” for Holmes that Downey developed. “Powers of Observation and Deduction” looks at the original Conan Doyle stories and how they were interpreted for this and other films. We also get “The Sherlockians” and “The One That Got Away” that focus on the characters in the films. “Future Past” looks at the use of visual effects to create Victorian London on a budget. ***

“Sherlock Holmes : Reinvented” is a featurette that also appears on the standard DVD (it’s the only special feature ported over to the DVD).

Final Words:

Guy Ritchie recreates “Sherlock Holmes” for an audience weaned on the Indiana Jones films bringing one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most important creations (and I should point out in a nice bit of trivia there’s a brief shout out to Edgar Allen Poe in the script since Poe created the prototype for Holmes in “Murders in the Rue Morgue” that Arthur Conan Doyle used along with an old medical professor he had to create Holmes)alive for a new generation. “Sherlock Holmes” may not be a perfect film but it’s involving, entertaining which is the least you can ask of any film. What’s more the film doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator and avoids treating the audience like idiots.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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