Well, I heard about Guy Ritchie too much too late. In fact, the first movie I had watched of his was Snatch. Then I realized I had a wild streak much like all those Tarantino fan boys who prodded me to watch this ‘Guy’s’ movie and described him as Quentin’s British counterpart. Later, additional information that he was Madonna’s husband (ex-husband presently) only helped me with the ‘celebrity factor’ and decided to watch Rock N Rolla too! And boy, I was not disappointed – those motley groups of crooks/gangsters going after the same elusive MacGuffin, deals going kaput, plans going anwry, creating some freaky yet comical situations in the process. These elements always proved to be great recipe for perfect crime capers.
When I heard about Ritchie coming up with a Sherlock Holmes movie, I had no idea how he would portray the greatest of fictional detectives in history. Would it be a period piece with UK gansta elements thrown in? Would it be true to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s/Dr. Watson’s version on the exploits of the resident of 221B Baker Street? Would he just play to the gallery and try to take the cerebral detective out of his comfort zone, i.e., being in his room in his favorite chair with the pipe dangling from the corner of his mouth with those violin interludes in between to soothe his nerves while exercising his grey cells and solving those cases??
I had my answers in terms of how Sherlock Holmes would be in the future (or in the past?) in the form of Sherlock Holmes I. Ritchie created a grim, steely looking London at the fag end of the 19th century. The sets were great and the action was great. But what was at the core of the movie was the male bonding and the chemistry (if we could call it that) between the leading men, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson respectively.
Reenforcing this belief was Sherlock Holmes II. Downey plays the legendary fictional detective to perfection while Law plays the perfect right-hand man. The sequel too is based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle without actually borrowing any particular story from his vast oeuvre like the first instalment. However, the story here borders on The Final Problem which was evidently written by Sir Arthur to bump off Holmes as he was getting increasingly tired of the character.
Professor Moriarty, projected as the greatest adversary in Sherlock Holmes stories, who remained enigmatic and a character off screen in Sherlock Holmes I (he remains unseen in a carriage scene in the movie), uses Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) to run his errands and assist with his nafarious activities. It is in this context Adler is introduced in the opening sequence of SH II. McAdams does not have much of a role to play in this ‘guy’ movie. With witty dialogues galore, the Holmes-Watson team play off each other and both men have as much role to play as the other. When Watson remarks to his friend that his most unoriginal and hideous-looking beard he sports to disguise himself to shake off surveillance would be a dead giveway, Holmes just goes dead pan, “it is so overt that it is covert!,” and it had everyone in the cinema in splits.
The adventure takes off from England and the show travels to Paris, and with clues gathered from Paris, to Germany, and finally a climax in the Swiss Alps much like The Final Problem! Only that the setting is a Peace Summit where the push literally comes to shove!!
It seems like Ritchie had decided against portraying his detective as the violin wielding, pipe smoking bloke who solves the cases without being much outdoors by putting Holmes right in the middle of action in a boxing bout in Sherlock Holmes I. I might be forced to say here that Guy Ritchie has a habit of sneaking in boxing scenes in almost all his movies! And boy, those scenes with pulsating veins, broken nasal bridges, spluttering blood never missed the mark in evoking that primitive instinct of routing for one of the fighters and “down down” with the weaker fighter. Boxing could well be the modern equivalent of those primates fighting for supremacy in the scheme of evolution! Sorry, I went overboard with explaining how action oriented Guy wanted his movies to be. Action oriented they are, SH II too. The action scenes are simply breath taking with some great ultra slo-mo and shots of the inner workings of guns and various weapons.
I cannot say if the loyal fans of Sherlock Holmes stories would see Holmes in this new light as portrayed by Ritchie, but verily I say unto you, Holmes is the new super hero who saves the world from World War I, and I have no qualms with that.
By thwarting Professor Moriarty’s plan to create conflict between nations and make a profit producing both “guns and bandages” at the start of industrial revolution, Holmes righted one of the terrible “wrongs” in history going literally back in time (i am not really sure how to put this), and who can complain against this achievement!