Sherlock Holmes (2009)

You’re probably aware that martial arts feature in the “Sherlock Holmes” movies, so for the fight fans among you, read on as we take a closer, detailed look at the type of combat and martial arts choreography involved in the context of the rest of the movie.

This representation of the classic Sherlock Holmes novels on the big screen is unlike any previous incarnation. This reanimation of the British detective is fairly bristling with martial arts scenes that will assuredly be appreciated by all kung-fu fans.

Trailer

Cast

Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is most unusual in this film as he doesn’t play your upstanding citizen. No! He loves a drink and other narcotics but most of all he enjoys a good scrap. Jude Law plays Dr. Watson who keeps the sanity of Sherlock Holmes in check while taking care of the doctor’s finances.

Now as we know, no one plays a villain like a British actor can and Mark Strong was perfect for this role as his grin and eerie voice give his role as Lord Blackwood an ominous appearance. Rachel McAdams is Irene Adler, the former lover of Sherlock who, just as cunning and manipulative as the detective, has a lot to hide.

Plot

The plot of this film is captivating to those who enjoy crime thrillers. Lord Blackwood is a part of a satanic cult who has been performing dark or black magic and human sacrifice across London. Captured by the crime-fighting duo, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Lord Blackwood is sentenced to death for his sinister crimes. When Blackwood raises from the dead however, London is left in a panic and the twosome is called upon to solve the mystery. They will prove to the citizens of London that Lord Blackwood is no god but a mere mortal. Meanwhile another plot is brewing on the sidelines that already lay down the foundations for the sequel. Irene Adler a former acquaintance of Sherlock has a great interest in Blackwood’s business but seems to be working for a mysterious figure.

Action

“Sherlock Holmes” has countless fight scenes that demonstrate a first class level of fight choreography. Robert Downey Jr is not your typical martial artist but the action scenes throughout the film will likely surprise and astonish you while your lower jaw spontaneously drops open.

His fighting style is similar to wing chun, using strikes as a form of defense. Every move demonstrates that size is not everything and an attacker can be countered using their size advantage against them.

With each fight scene there is a narration from Sherlock Holmes describing every move made on his opponent. He explains each attack in great detail that gives the audience an understanding of how he disables his foes effortlessly. The narration is accompanied by shots in slow motion that show every muscular ripple and bone crunch in the enemy’s body. After each slow motion scene the viewer is rewound back to the start of conflict where none of the above has yet happened. The narration is Sherlock’s mind plotting and planning his attacks before he explodes into action, flawlessly executing every strike and counter in real time.

From the very beginning of the film the protagonist shows off his combat skills by incapacitating Lord Blackwood’s thugs swiftly and silently. If you didn’t know better you’d think Sherlock was a trained assassin methodically clearing the streets of London’s criminals.

At one point in the film Sherlock is at a bar aptly named the ‘Punch Bowl’ betting on himself in a fisticuff bout. His much larger competitor does not go easy on him and uses his brute strength to tackle and clobber Sherlock to the ground. Fancying himself as a crowd pleaser, Sherlock showboats to distract his fellow contestant and then unleashes a torrent of punches for every enraged attack thrown at him.

We see Watson and Sherlock fighting side by side in a two against three brawl. The odds are not good when Dredger a 6ft 10 giant walks through the door! While Sherlock sticks to his Wing Chun in this movie. Dr. Watson uses Baritsu against his adversaries. (Baritsu is a type of martial art developed in England that combines boxing, French kickboxing, cane fighting and jiu-jitsu.)

Summary

This picture was not what I had initially expected to get given the classic Sherlock novels but Guy Ritchie’s depiction is highly entertaining. There are many fight scenes with brilliant choreography and stunts. It also has comedy, drama and suspense that all contribute to making this film satisfyingly solid.

Trivia

  • Robert Downey Jr was knocked out during the fight scene with Robert Maillet who played Dredger.
  • The Punch Bowl fight sequence was filmed with a special high-speed camera. The first punch to the jaw was an original one second but lasted eight seconds when shot with the high-speed camera.
  • Many of the lead characters reportedly performed the many of their own stunts.
  • In the original novels Sherlock Holmes is a master in Baritsu but in the film he uses Wing-Chun, the style made famous by Ip Man and his iconic student Bruce Lee.
  • Robert Downey Jr. is actually a student of the art in real life and the fight sequence featuring him and David Garrick at the Punchbowl Pit was constructed with his teacher’s help.

Film Rating: 8/10

Kiays Khalil grew up in the 90's along with a boldly emerging new era of great martial arts action films. The second eldest of six children, his passion for the arts began with karate classes as a child. His curiosity grew as he moved through to study jiu jitsu and wing chun. Now he boxes with his three brothers at his local amateur boxing club. He has experience reporting on sensitive subjects from the Middle East and the Gulf. He now combines ambition and aspiration in his role as a martial arts journalist and is keen to share his knowledge and journey with people from all corners of the globe.

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