The biggest production yet for director Guy Ritchie ("Snatch"), "Sherlock Holmes" sees Ritchie bringing back many of his signature cinematic tricks - and they work splendidly. Early in the picture, Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his trusted associate, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), have busted Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong.) Blackwood's final request in prison is to have Holmes pay him a visit and he warns the detective: he will return.
While Watson and Holmes prepare to go on their own way - Watson is getting married, Holmes is getting wasted - the two are called back to service when it becomes apparent that Blackwood has managed to rise from the grave. Holmes also runs into his former flame, a crook named Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). While the two start feeling sparks again, it turns out that Irene may not have the best intentions.
As Holmes and Watson get deeper into investigating the return of Blackwood, they soon realize the epic scale of the plan, which leads them all the way to Parliament and the (still under construction) Tower Bridge. In Ritchie's reboot of the character, Holmes is even a fighter, and the scenes - complete with slow-motion and other touches, remind so much of "Snatch" that one can almost hear the score from that film.
However, Ritchie's enjoyable set of visual tricks not only lends the picture a punchy style, but - in this case - also allows the audience to get into the head of the main character as he plans out his next move. The costly feature also uses a considerable amount of visual effects, but - with a few minor examples of iffy blue screens - does so in a way that's effective and not overwhelming. The picture's length is a little bit of an issue - the picture is certainly never boring, but dropping 10-15 minutes would have made for a tighter, more urgently paced film.
The film's performances are also terrific, with a couple of exceptions. Downey, Jr. may have not seemed like a perfect fit for Holmes, but the actor's fast wit and way with both humor and drama make for a fantastic performance. Law and Downey, Jr. also don't seem like a perfect pairing on paper, but the two have great chemistry together. The only weak link is McAdams - her performance is a bit uneven, and she doesn't have much of a spark with Downey, Jr. There's not a great deal of depth to the character, either - she primarily leads to the reveal of what the sequel will likely involve.
Overall, "Sherlock Holmes" isn't without a few mild concerns, but the majority of the film is a marvelous, richly entertaining new take on the character.
VIDEO: "Sherlock Holmes" is presented by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is certainly above-average, as the picture looked rock-solid throughout most scenes. Sharpness and detail looked pleasing; while a few moments appeared slightly soft, the film otherwise remained crisp and well-defined.
The presentation did show a couple of slight traces of pixelation, but otherwise looked clean and smooth, with no print flaws, edge enhancement or additional problems. Colors looked at least somewhat subdued throughout the presentation, but this appeared intentional.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack certainly delivered an entertaining experience. Surrounds kicked in during many of the film's action/fight sequences, with the rear speakers delivering effective sound effects and ambience. Audio quality remained superb, with powerful bass, crisp dialogue and precise clarity.
EXTRAS: Remarkably, only a 14-minute "making of" documentary.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Sherlock Holmes" isn't without a few mild concerns, but the majority of the film is a marvelous, richly entertaining new take on the character.
The Film B+