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After finally catching serial killer and occult "sorcerer" Lord Blackwood, legendary sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson can close yet another successful case. But when Blackwood mysteriously returns from the grave and resumes his killing spree, Holmes must take up the hunt once again. Contending with his partner's new fiancée and the dimwitted head of Scotland Yard, the dauntless detective must unravel the clues that will lead him into a twisted web of murder, deceit, and black magic - and the deadly embrace of temptress Irene Adler.
For more about Sherlock Holmes and the Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray release, see Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Robert Maillet
Director: Guy Ritchie
» See full cast & crew
Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray Review
"The game's afoot!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 28, 2010
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Robert Downey Jr. has risen from the dead and taken Hollywood by storm. His resurrection wasn't exactly graceful, mind you -- The Singing Detective, Gothika, Eros, and Game 6 amounted to a rather rough and rocky resurgence -- but that was before a brilliant little flick called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang changed everything. Greeted with critical praise and brushfire word-of-mouth, Downey was back. Over the next four years, he graciously tackled a small but crucial role in Good Night and Good Luck, starred in Indie gems A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Charlie Bartlett, explored the surreal in A Scanner Darkly and Fur, delivered an oft-overlooked, Oscar-worthy performance in David Fincher's Zodiac, left audiences howling in Tropic Thunder, and, of course, commandeered the box office and the comicbook community at large with Iron Man, an international hit that solidified the actor's A-list status. Could hit-or-miss director Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes possibly live up to Downey's recent track record? Apparently so. More than a reinvention of a classic series, Ritchie's rapidfire reimagining capitalizes on Downey's newfound star power, features a snap-neck screenplay that showcases the actor's sharp tongue and quick wit, and serves up a slick, cerebral adventure that, quite frankly, turns out to be a lot of good ol' fashion fun.
When a vicious murderer named Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is brought to justice and put to death, the men responsible for his capture, famed detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and medical investigator Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), believe the case to be closed. That is until reports surface that Lord Blackwood has returned from the grave to wreak havoc and spread fear in Victorian London. Holmes, a recluse and social pariah, is ecstatic to be back on the job. As someone who over-analyzes everything and everyone that crosses his path, he tends to lapse into depression and a spot of madness whenever he's left to his own devices. Watson, on the other hand, doesn't share his enthusiasm. Having devoted the majority of his time to his fiancé (Kelly Reilly), the doctor is a bit annoyed with his friend's antics. Even so, the deductive duo follow a trail of strange, seemingly supernatural clues, discover a secret society with a firm grasp on Parliamentary power, stumble across a scientific lab a gang of thugs is preparing to burn to the ground, and match wits with the only person to ever best Holmes, former flame Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). For a moment, it seems as if they're about to close in. Yet every time Blackwood strikes from the shadows, another body is left in his wake. So it is that when their adversary threatens to make an even bolder move, Holmes and Watson are forced to unravel a web of otherworldly mysteries, uncover the intricacies of Blackwood's devious plan, and prevent the twisted-tooth madman from killing dozens, perhaps hundreds more.
Whether Sherlock Holmes is entirely faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories is beside the point. What matters is that Holmes and Watson, while more rugged and quick to roll up their sleeves, exude the same spirited determination, the same hunger for the truth, the same burning desire to solve every mystery as their leather-bound counterparts. Downey and Law engage in as much mental brow-beating as fist fights, and their on-screen chemistry is as breezy and effortless as anyone could hope for. Words spew out of their mouths as if fired by a cerebral gatling gun, toying with their opponents, taking lighthearted verbal shots at one another, and engaging in some of the most tete-a-tete dialogue since Martin Campbell worked similar magic with his iconic characters in The Mask of Zorro. Moreover, Ritchie and screenwriters Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg have given Holmes and Watson complete overhauls. Ever the arrogant charmer, Holmes has been fashioned into an unsociable loser of sorts; a brilliant detective, tactician, and strategist who nevertheless struggles with common courtesy and public venues. Meanwhile, Watson -- often portrayed as Holmes' pudgy, dutiful dog -- isn't simply a bumbling avenue of exposition, but rather a skilled physician, a weathered war veteran, and a formidable investigator. Together, the pair are thrust into every situation with renewed vigor and purpose, and continually challenge, motivate, and inspire one another. The relationship is a convincing one, and their partnership is as strong as their intuition.
Yes, the plot is a tad cumbersome; yes, henchmen are dispatched ad nauseum; and yes, the true nature of Blackwood's magic is never much of a mystery (at least not for anyone remotely familiar with the underlying formula of Doyle's original stories). However, the genius of Holmes rests in its cast's memorable performances and Ritchie's stylishly shot action sequences, not in its somewhat overwrought plot. Even when quick-cut flashbacks are employed to answer sixteen questions at a time, Downey's expressive self-assuredness keeps the revelations lively. Even when Watson pouts like a child and refuses to participate, Law's stiff, clench-jawed commitment to the good doctor transforms his every hesitation into an opportunity for a dose of wry, Holmes-v-Watson comedy. But the humor never relies on cheap gags or unnecessary slapstick (well, aside from a bit with a sedated dog), instead relying on Downey and Law's endearing personas to deliver the goods. Just try to keep up with their tussles of reason, their spitfire debates, or their passive-aggressive banter. These are old, dear friends who've known each other for a long time; men who've faced the impossible, looked into the abyss of the unknown, and returned unscathed. Downey and Law seem to vanish, replaced by two, world-weary crime fighters who've overcome more obstacles than a single film could possibly convey. Ritchie's vision may not be perfect, but it offers the sort of nimble, entertaining adventure that makes Sherlock Holmes a perfect rainy-day movie.
Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray, Video Quality
There will be those who gripe and grumble at the mere sight of Sherlock Holmes, my dear Watson. Too dark! Too flat! Too murky! However, those who see the beauty in director Guy Ritchie and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot's pepper-washed Victorian palette, those familiar with the filmmakers' intentionally grim-n-grimy aesthetics, and those with an affinity for the director's stylized visual flair will make a rather astute conclusion: that Warner's bold and bleak 1080p/VC-1 transfer is an impressive one. What can we deduce from the outset? Hulking shadows, deep blacks, and opium-stained greens dominate the proceedings, lending both sun-struck exteriors and fire-bathed interiors a somber disposition. Primaries are reserved, yet bursts of flame and warm skintones bring color to the screen, injecting life where there would otherwise be little. Moreover, depth and dimensionality evoke a 19th century portrait; a fitting quality considering the tone set by the great detective's introduction and Ritchie's opening credits. Fine detail is just as rewarding, even if its quality is entirely dependent on the weight of Rousselot's oppressive shadows. Soft shots abound, mind you, but they're the exception rather than the rule, and each one traces back to the filmmakers, not the studio's encode. Textures are generally razor-sharp, closeups look magnificent, and overall clarity is exceedingly commendable, especially considering the nature of Rousselot's photography.
Better still, ringing, aliasing, noise reduction, banding, macroblocking, and compression anomalies are nowhere to be found (save some faint artifacting that appears when Watson flings open the dusty curtains in Holmes' apartment). If the transfer suffers it's at the hands of some rampant (albeit manageable) crush and fleeting source noise. The darkness surrounding Holmes frequently merges with Downey's black hair, coat, and hat, creating several indistinct on-screen inkblots. Likewise, brighter shots are occasionally dotted by nearly imperceptible, white pinpoints that undermine the integrity of faces and fabrics. Neither issue becomes a debilitating problem -- they may not even be the fault of the technical transfer -- but both are worth mentioning. As it stands, fans and newcomers will be most pleased with the results, providing they're armed with appropriate expectations.
Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sherlock Holmes conjures up an able-bodied DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track; one that strikes an effective balance between Downey's soft-spoken, rapidfire chatter and Ritchie's more rambunctious fisticuffs and explosive action sequences. Dialogue is crisp, lively, and well prioritized, and rarely gets dragged beneath any chaos that ensues. I couldn't resist turning on the subtitles, but only so I could catch every leaf-on-the-wind syllable hurtling out of Holmes and Watson's mouths, not because of any technical mishaps. Rear speaker activity is both subtle and aggressive, crafting a convincing soundfield that made me turn my head on more than one occasion. The results are a tad artificial at times -- in the first ten minutes alone, pounding horse hooves, rattling carriages, babbling cultists, and the wet clock clack of 19th Century London's slick-stoned streets furiously encircle the listener -- but it makes for a wholly immersive sonic experience. Similarly, the LFE channel occasionally lumbers about, even when it should tiptoe, but its hearty thooms, thunderous eruptions, and palpable heft are welcome additions to the mix. It only helps that directionality is spot on, Hans Zimmer's pithy score leaves a notable mark, and pans are as impeccable as Holmes' intellect. The only significant issue audiophiles will encounter? A handful of scenes sound a bit damp compared to the rest of the film. Granted, it doesn't spoil the track's wares, but it is a slight distraction. Regardless, Warner's fit and faithful mix is strong enough to warrant any attention and praise that comes its way.
Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Sherlock Holmes arrives with a satisfying supplemental package that follows in the footsteps of Watchmen and Terminator: Salvation with a thoroughly engrossing Maximum Movie Mode experience. Even though it's essentially the only substantial feature on the disc -- the "Focus Points" already appear in the PiP track and the "Reinvented" feature is little more than a short EPK -- it single-handedly bolsters the value of Holmes' high definition debut.
Sherlock Holmes Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ritchie loads his snarky reinvention of Sherlock Holmes with enough fierce wit, searing action, charming characters, and keen intellect to fill an entire trilogy, yet manages to prevent the film from growing unwieldy and toppling over. Fast, funny, and captivating, Downey and Law are Holmes and Watson, and Ritchie's elaborate production brings the fire in their eyes to blazing, silver-screen life. Warner's Blu-ray release is just as memorable, granting fans a striking video transfer, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio mix, and an engaging Maximum Movie Mode track, all of which amounts to a high-quality release sure to grab hold of anyone willing to place their trust in Ritchie's able hands.
Sherlock Holmes: Other Editions
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