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Dec272009

SHERLOCK HOLMES is ambiguously gay

Score: 

And so is Watson. This dynamic duo is a lot closer than we thought. While they used to solve mysteries together and share witty lines of dialogue in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, Holmes and Watson now playfully flirt and argue about ‘couple’ issues. Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, complete with eyeliner and the tiniest dash of Jack Sparrow, is visibly upset that Watson (Jude Law) is moving out. He makes little effort to hide his hatred of the doctor’s new fiancé or how much he cares for him. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. He’s just not the Sherlock I’m used to seeing. I was more entertained by the gay undertones in Sherlock Holmes than I was the mystery. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Perhaps Director Guy Ritchie or the three screenwriters and one executive behind the new Sherlock Holmes chose a gayer detective because they thought it might be the only way to get modern audiences interested in the 120-year-old character again. Sherlock Holmes is synonymous with the detective story. He’s one of the most read characters in history, but according to Wikipedia, 75 actors have played the legendary detective in 211 adaptations. I can imagine their reticence to fully retread the past, but why this direction? Are we really pushing the envelope here?

Besides being somewhat gay, the new Sherlock is now the Neo of the detective world. In The Sign of the Four and other Holmes stories, we learn that Holmes was an accomplished bare-knuckle fighter long ago, but Downey Jr.’s Holmes fights all the time. In Matrix slow-mo, we see him plan out entire chains of attacks, then watch him pummel his opponents with deadly precision. I suppose it makes sense that Holmes’s intellect would make him a good fighter, but he’s almost superhuman.

This new superhuman Holmes ventures into a supernatural mystery as well. The mystical Lord Blackwood is captured by the detective duo and hanged by local authorities in the first act (he’s been sacrificing women, probably virgins). Hours after Watson himself pronounces Blackwood dead, he pulls a Jesus and rises from the grave, blowing his way out of his burial chamber. Scary stuff. Good old fashioned detective work follows, and I have to admit, it’s fun to watch Sherlock at work. Like Gregory House, he’s always 10 steps ahead of us, and Watson.

Ritchie also nails the look and feel of 19th century Britain. His signature style, seen best in Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is present as well, complimented by an incredible composition from Hans Zimmer. His score is perfectly tuned to the director’s chaotic editing. I had the main theme, which is played somewhat drunkenly by violins, stuck in my head the whole car ride home.

Sherlock Holmes is Guy Ritchie’s first big budget film and I get the feeling he badly wants a hit. His post-Madonna career may actually depend on it. He began this decade with Snatch ($30m) but has since fallen from grace with box office duds like Swept Away ($598k), Revolver ($84k), and RocknRolla ($5.7m). It takes guts to try and freshen up Sherlock Holmes for a mainstream feature film, and his risk has paid off—the film should satisfy most audiences. 

Still, I can’t help but lament that there are far more explosions, jokes, and fights than interesting twists and plot points. Ritchie should thank his cast, lead by Robert Downey Jr., Rachel McAdams, Jude Law, and Eddie Marsan, for gluing his action scenes together. Downey Jr. especially, is quite amazing as Holmes. The whole cast has great chemistry, and though his first adventure is not perfect, I look forward to seeing the pipe-smoking detective and his companion in the imminent sequel.

Trailer and Poster

Reader Comments (1)

Note: I made a couple edits to this review. I don't feel the original wording adequately explained the disappointments I had with the film.

December 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterJeffrey Van Camp

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