Monday, January 4, 2010
I first witnessed the work of Guy Ritchie many years ago.
The time; circa Schoolies Week: 1998 and my buddies and I wandered in off the streets to catch a snappy-looking British gangsta' flick with the remarkably wonderful title of LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120735/ .
I loved every second. It was fresh, crisp with a kinetic visual flair and some of the most quotable, insta-classic dialogue I had heard in years. (To this day, my buddy Vince and I still quote gems like “It's a deal. It's a steal...” and so on)
From that day on, I knew that I liked what this Ritchie cat was serving up on the screen and I hungered for more.
Time passed and he finally released his next effort; ...(the EXTREMELY overrated) SNATCH http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208092/ .
A snappy-looking British gangsta' flick.
Fair enough. Hmmm...
It was enjoyable enough, I suppose.
Brad Pitt delivered one of the most memorable characters of his career, the film still looked great and the dialogue was above-average in regard to quotables.
However; it didn't have the lasting aftertaste that LOCK, STOCK... contained.
Or rather; it DID have an aftertaste...but one that was less pleasant and unlikely to make one return for repeated viewings. (At least not without having the enjoyment level of each viewing progressively decrease at a steady rate.)
NOTE: I shall add here that I seem to be alone in this position.
Within the social circles that I travel and from working in a video-store for some time, I have first-hand knowledge that most folk hold the film in MUCH higher regard than I. The average Joe seems to absolutely adore SNATCH, so much to the point where they foolishly place it above LOCK, STOCK... on the cinematic food chain.
To each their own and all that, but if you bring that shit to my front door; I'll slam it in your face and pour boiling oil upon you from the parapets. (That's right. In this hypothetical situation, I've decided it's best that I live in some castle-like fortress from which I hurl cinema-flavoured rhetoric upon the unwashed peons below. ...It also has a water slide.)
Moving on; I shan't dally much longer with Ritchie's past work for it can all be summed up in tidy, little point-form pattern.
SWEPT AWAY http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0291502/ : Most people who witnessed this ordeal took their own lives. Beach romance starring his then-wife, Madonna. Ritchie later escaped from the firm grasp of her wiry, chicken-claw hands when he presumably discovered that she is, in fact, an exhumed corpse reanimated and sustained by dark sorcery.
Ray Of Light is an amazing album, though. Seriously.
Studios wanted Ritchie to include an animated British gangsta' crab for comic relief, some say.
(NOTE: I may be, and probably am, lying)
REVOLVER http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365686/ : Apparently, this film divided the global population into 2 groups.
1. Those who did not see it
2. Those who saw it and wished they were in Group 1
As usual, I stand alone; for I have not watched it yet. I haven't been avoiding it, though. Quite the opposite. The film intrigues me (despite being about crime and gangstas again) and it has only been given a local release on DVD recently...after 5 years. Sigh.
ROCKnROLLA http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1032755/ : Wow. Another criminal-based, snappy-looking gangsta' flick set in Britain. Way to break that mould, Master Ritchie.
No harm – no foul, though. It's a pretty enjoyable film and Toby Kebbell's awesome performance is the main attraction, in my opinion. The guy is solid gold and definitely one to watch., yo.
So there you have it.
See the pattern?
Now, back in the day when SNATCH was beginning to grow stale on my shelf; I pondered about a wonderful alternate reality in which Guy Ritchie ventured out into some greener pastures filled with fresh grass and more fertile soil.
Standing around in the cinema, I would say to anybody within earshot, “I love Guy Ritchie, but I'm tired of the same old crime/gangsta routine. Someone give this guy a comic-book movie or a period piece or something. Please.”
(At this point most folk would just either nod quietly, walk away or walk away and go watch SNATCH again.)
Well, looks like I only had to wait about 10 years for my wish to come true, because Ritchie finally delivered SHERLOCK HOLMES http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988045/ .
Was it worth the wait?
Oh my, yes.
I love this film.
I had very high expectations as a result of an awesome trailer coupled with the fact that I'm a big fan of Guy Ritchie to begin with.
Throw into the mix that this was THE hypothetical Ritchie film that I had been yearning for all those years, and you've got me practically vibrating with anticipation as the cinema goes dark.
I could not have asked for more from Ritchie this time. Here he was playing with some classic characters in a period setting and juggling mystery, crime-procedural elements, action/fight sequences and doing it all with his own recognisable visual flair and class. (The way Holmes analyzes a fight is a stroke of particular brilliance, on Ritchie's behalf.)
They gave the cook some new, fresh ingredients and he baked up an amazing, delicious cake in his own kitchen with his own tools.
I was beyond impressed. I felt so satisfied. It was a wonderful thing to see someone move into a new arena and still manage to display their skills outside of their usual comfort zone.
Bravo, Ritchie. Nothing but praise is coming from my seat, sir.
- Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law make up one of the best screen duos I've seen in years.
Their respective portrayals of Holmes and Watson, is a remarkable display of believable friendship and camaraderie. I could tell these gents had a long, rich history and I could believe that such a relationship would take them off on many more adventures together.
These two harmonize so well that with a good surround sound set-up in your home theatre, I believe you'll be able to turn up the volume and actually hear a CLICK sound as they snap into place like lock and key. It's flawless.
The banter, the sombre moments, the action; Holmes and Watson deal with everything this adventure throws at them and they do so with an ease that only years together at each other's backs can allow.
Downey Jr. is in usual top form. His theatrics and the subtle flourishes he provides to simple gestures lend the character of Holmes an almost hypnotic quality akin to Johnny Depp's (earlier) Jack Sparrow work (before that franchise was drowned by bad decisions and missed opportunities).
Jude Law as Watson could easily be overshadowed by the more flashy Holmes role, but thankfully that never comes to pass. Watson is the pause between Holmes loud notes, if you will. Both different, but still absolutely necessary for music to be created. For example, where Holmes may speak at length while deducing until the tea goes cold before acting, punching or blowing something up...Watson would prefer to remain soft-spoken and calmly rational...before acting, punching or blowing something up.
Same destination; different route, no?
- If the studios are smart; they have a monster franchise on their hands.
Like the Tower Bridge structure in the film; SHERLOCK HOLMES has set a VERY sturdy foundation upon which a great cinematic edifice may be constructed.
I eagerly await further adventures involving this team such as 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case Of The (Blank)' or 'Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery Of The (Blank)'.
- The score is brilliant. Case closed.
Zimmer delivers a stirring score filled with the likes of drums and (I think) double bass and mandolin, that drives the action, accompanies the visuals without ever overpowering the overall taste and even manages to infuse the proceedings with the same sense of playful, recklessness that perfectly captures the nature of Downey Jr.'s Holmes performance.
I can confidently say that it's probably the best score I've heard in quite some time. The only thing that annoyed me was that I could not buy it on CD instantly after leaving the cinema. I hit 3 stores and they all stared at me blankly after consulting their equally vacant computer screens.
No matter. I bought it from iTunes as soon as I got home and I'm still listening to it now as I type this.
- The end credits sequence is superb.
A beautiful example of perfect art direction and style that is up there with the awesome opening credits from WATCHMEN http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0409459/ .
- If the cynical hyenas out there MUST have a bone of negativity to gnaw upon; then let me spare the tiniest of scraps in the shape of Irene Adler.
Rachel McAdams is pure class and one of my favourites...but her character is actually not given much to do and by the end of it all, you're still left feeling, "Who is this gal? I like her, but...who is she?" She plays her part well and fills her position within the grand scheme of the narrative, but you never really feel like she's given the care and attention that characters like Holmes and Watson have benefited from.
Perhaps, if she's kept around for further adventures, her character may be given more opportunities to shine. If so; I welcome it.
Regarding script, structure and plot; sure, there is some heavy exposition near the end which some goats may bleat about and claim as 'weak writing', but I disagree. The Holmes character is built up from the beginning as the type of chap who thinks things through and plays the events AND explanations out in his mind. Had Holmes NOT been allowed his 'explain it all' moment, then it would have felt like something was missing considering that was one of his personality traits, for want of a better term.
Besides, the plot is intricate enough that I did not mind in the slightest that Sherlock provided some clarity, and that is definitely not to say that the plot is muddy or poorly-structured, but rather that I cared enough about the affairs to appreciate the explanations and revelations.
I cannot speak highly enough of this film.
Awesome new franchise potential.
If you need a break in between seeing AVATAR for the 4th time, then I HIGHLY recommend SHERLOCK HOLMES.
I'm off to listen to the score again now and look for clues...
(Oh, and speaking of AVATAR; yes I am going to do a post, of course. It'll be up next. I had to let it all soak in first. Stay tuned.)