Maybe I’m old school but when it comes to Sherlock Holmes I prefer to see English actors in the role of the iconic English detective.
Nothing against the skills of Robert Downey Jr. In fact, the American actor seems to immerse himself body and soul in whatever role he is playing. He even made me believe in Iron Man. And, of course, his performances in 1992’s Chaplin, 1997’s Two Girls and a Guy and 2008’s Tropic Thunder are the stuff of legend.
If any American actor could pull it off it should have been the gifted and chameleonic Downey.
As it is, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional detective comes across as a sort of steam punk James Bond.
There are far too many (highly physical) fight scenes, gadgets and goofy set-ups (Holmes painted up as a drag queen?) for a reviewer who grew up with sane and sensible Basil Rathbone playing Sherlock Holmes (and Nigel Bruce as a bumbling Dr. Watson). Later, in the 1980s, Jeremy Brett gave Rathbone a run for his money in a series of mysteries filmed for British television and aired on PBS in North America.
Even the current BBC series Sherlock, despite its outrageous premise (Sherlock Holmes alive and texting in modern day London!) is more true to the essential spirit of Conan Doyle’s character thanks to young (and previously unknown) Benedict Cumberbatch’s lightning-in-a-bottle performance and the ingeniousness of series creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt. (Incidentally, the latter was also one of the prime movers in reinventing Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde as BBC-TV’s 2007 triumph Jekyll! If you enjoy Sherlock you gotta see Jekyll!)
Kudos as well to the marvelous Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. I even prefer Andrew Scott’s “Jim Moriarty” in Sherlock to Jared Harris’ commendable performance as the infamous Professor M in Game of Shadows.
Let’s face it, casting Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes is like casting a well-known British actor as a quintessentially American private eye (uh, Hugh Grant as Mike Hammer?)
But then , director Guy Ritchie has never let common sense get in the way of an intriguing idea (after all, this is the man who married Madonna.)
According to Internet Movie Database it took five writers to cobble together the plot. When it comes to capturing the essence of what makes the Holmes stories so successful they obviously don’t have a clue.
But, you may be saying, you already knew Downey Jr, was playing a rock’em sock’em version of the famous fictional sleuth in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.
So why watch the sequel (even if it was only five bucks at your local video shop.)
Okay, true confessions time. I rented the sequel to see Noomi Rapace.
Like many thinking horndogs I was curious to see how the actress who played Lisbeth Salander in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would look and sound in her first English language feature.
And, just as I suspected, even though film biz execs were knocked out by her performance in the original Swedish language version of the thriller they didn’t know what to do with her. And so she is wasted in a role (as a shady gypsy fortune teller) that anyone could have played.
(Fortunately, director Ridley Scott makes better use of her formidable strengths as a performer in a key role in the new sci-fi thriller “Prometheus”. )