(Lo and Behold! The floodgates have opened again…)
I know it’s a bit late in the day, but I have to comment on the creative re-imagination of one of my childhood idols, by one of my more recent ones. Guy Ritchie is nothing, if not iconic. He is one of only a handful of directors, who has a style so distinct, that just watching a 5 minute segment from any of movies is enough to confirm the culprit behind the camera. (with the love-fueled “Swept Away” being the sole exception) Shooting to fame in 1998 with Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – Ritchie does crime like no one else does. He strips all the glamour and glitz from the seedy underbellies of his native England and portrays the perpetrators of hair-brained criminal plots as real (and really funny) humans. The violence is never a destination in Guy Ritchie’s movies – but much like with Tarantino, it is the journey itself. I love him, and the characters he creates. (the muddy disheveled street fighter that Brad Pitt played in Snatch is my all time favorite Brad Pitt role.)
Now on to Robert Downey Jr. Is he on this way to becoming one of the most dependable yet under-rated actors of our generation? A master of every genre, his presence fills the screen, but not in an overpowering way like Pacino or De Niro. His comic timing is stuff that legends are made of. And almost every character he plays is memorable.
Finally Sherlock Holmes. There never has been a more iconic hero than him.
Mr. Holmes is who made brains sexy and brawn unnecessary. And for thin scrawny and slightly nerdy kids like me, he was stronger than Superman and battier than Batman. The books are all amazing, but what really stuck in my head as the definitive Sherlock Holmes was Jeremy Brett – playing the puffing detective in the 1984 TV series. Curmudgeonly yet charming in a condescending way, Mr. Brett’s rendition of Sherlock is close to perfect and has never been bettered.
Now put Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr. and Sherlock Holmes together, and you have the equivalent of a cinematic wet-dream. We were bristling with excitement, waiting for the movie to begin. I hadn’t read any reviews or heard anyone’s opinion. I wanted to form my own… wanted to be surprised.
And Surprised, I was. My first reaction was “Dude… this isn’t Holmes.” Robert Downey Jr. was excellent, stealing every scene with his eccentric portrayal of a crazy genius – but my reaction was still… “Dude…this isn’t Holmes”. The Holmes I knew was always impeccably dressed, had the manners of a true English gentleman and really negated the use of force with his beautiful mind. I guess Guy Ritchie missed the memo. Because Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is a brute. And muddy. And a complete mess. And I hated him. The brilliant deductions that he was making, could be made by most in the cast of CSI Miami.
Until, I decided not to spoil the experience for myself, and see this as a Ritchie movie that has Robert Downey Jr. in it. It was a struggle, but soon I was enjoying the rollicking antics of this crazed detective and his companion Dr. Watson (played by Jude Law, who is a definite improvement over David Burke in the TV series). The movie is as violent as any Guy Ritchie movie – and he cleverly uses Holmes’ deductive ability in slow-mo fight sequences. Very stylish and unique. But still not Sherlock Holmes.
Don’t be mistaken… I loved the movie. Robert Downey Jr. is at his best – and there is nary a dull moment. But I refuse to accept Ritchie’s version of Holmes. A sequel is in the works, with Holmes’ arch enemy Prof. Moriarty making a cameo appearance… my sincere advice to Guy Ritchie would be to show a bit more brain and a bit less brawn. If he can.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Brett’s crown lies untouched. If you are looking for the real Holmes – stick to the telly version.