Out of the blue my mother asked me to go see Mr. Holmes earlier this week, the rare opportunity to see a PG movie in the wild was irresistible. We saw the film at 3:30 PM and the theater was packed with octogenarians. The film stars Gandalf the Grey as an aging Sherlock Holmes, a wonderful fit for the role. Mr. Holmes takes place in the post WW2 era and Sherlock is at the ripe old age of 93; though they also show him at a comparatively younger age as well (late 60’s/early 70’s). Ian McKellen is only 76 at this point (17 years younger than Christopher Lee) so it’s an interesting age dichotomy as they put on makeup to make him look more ancient and makeup to make him look younger than his present age.
Holmes is effectively a more realistic portrayal of a brilliant detective who has had fictional tales written about his exploits from the dear, absent Watson. In the place of Watson we have his housekeeper; played wonderfully by the incomparable Laura Linney of Truman Show fame, and her young son Roger. In contrast to your typical annoying child role Roger is actually a fairly interesting character and I suppose the closest thing to an audience insert that the film has. He looks on Holmes with wonderment and wants to emulate his every step, but is also reasonably clever in the proceedings.
As a last act in his life Holmes wants to write a “the true story of” sort of adjustment to one of Watson’s tales. However he simply can’t remember it so he takes various herbal remedies in an attempt to adjust his memory, all for naught. In actuality the mental activity of discussing things with Roger is what helps him to remember the tale. Over the course of the film this mystery alongside two others are resolved, with some relatively predictable moments of peril along the way. However the main overarching mystery has an interesting resolution that isn’t entirely obvious and leads to an intriguing ending.
This is on the whole simply a satisfying movie, since it is PG nothing particularly horrible could happen but you can still have the implication of horrible things happening. It is rare for a film to be simultaneously intelligent and “happy” as it were and Mr. Holmes certainly accomplishes that. Mithrandir, Olorin, and Magneto are all wonderful additions to the Holmes Filmography and the film’s appeal to “Genius troubles” might just earn it some Oscar support; though it isn’t nearly as overbearing as most of those movies.
So, what’s the best thing to do after you see a heartwarming PG movie? Well of course you want to go see an NC-17 movie. Admittedly I didn’t realize it when I bought it but the DVD version of Bad Lieutenant definitely has that rating. It’s hard to say whether it would keep the same rating if made today but it would certainly at least be a hard R. I went into this film with relatively high expectations as the unmatched masterpiece that is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans certainly set the bar extremely high.
So how does this film stack up? Well, it has most of the same basic plot elements but not much of the charm or intrigue. Bad Lieutenant is basically all about drug abuse and has very little to do with police work or mystery solving but the pseudo sequel actually accomplished both sides of the story quite well. There’s also maybe 15 solid minutes of old baseball broadcasting (not historical, though aside from the conclusion most of the broadcasts sound legitimate), and as much as I like baseball I don’t necessarily need that directly in the middle of the film I’m watching. Yes it does contribute to Harvey Keitel’s mood but I think you could chop it down to 3-5 minutes and do just as well.
The crime in this film is the raping of a Nun by 2 noble churchgoers, including some rather visceral details. And so for like 25 minutes of the movie Keitel actually engages in police work in an attempt to solve the case, to no avail. After a late interview with the Nun in which she says she has forgiven them Keitel has a crisis of faith and you get to hear the indiscernable Mr. White moaning from Reservoir Dogs for what feels like 10 minutes. He has a mental projection of Jesus who he asks “why?” to perpetually. As a religious person I actually find this scene rather fascinating but I have no idea how someone who didn’t understand that mindset would respond to it (apparently rather well), this is a great scene and sort of makes the movie all by itself.
The rest of the film is perfectly adequate in demonstrating how much of a horrible person Harvey Keitel is (Nicholas Cage’s character is more of a “Chaotic Good” sort). The ending is a predictable enough result whereas the ending of Port of Call is total insanity. I think this film is trying to be disturbing at its core but the thing is, I’ve seen Oldboy and nothing is disturbing now so it doesn’t really work for me personally. I really like dirty cop movies and I liked Dark Blue quite a lot which I saw recently, but this one is just sort of alright. Not a bad film by any stretch but not a particularly amazing one either.
A random criticism I have of the film is that all of the women in the film are ridiculously gorgeous, and if you’re trying to make a film “gritty” as it were you have to dress them up in such a way that they don’t look like that. Port of Call has only one attractive woman in it and even she still looks fucked up half the time, but regular old Bad Lieutenant apparently has a drug dealing/perpetually using woman who just looks fantastic all the time, no side effects guys; those only impact the Keitel.
This review comes off a little harsh but I don’t mean to disparage the film that much. It’s still quite good and you should see it, just make sure you watch Port of Call New Orleans at some point because that shit is fucking amazing.
Aside: I bought Edge of Tomorrow and saw that yesterday, still pretty damn incredible. Guess what the first trailer is when you boot up the DVD? That’s right, Mad Max. So WB has put out in the past 2 years the best two movies as well as Shadow of Mordor, The Witcher 3 (US distributor, the overwhelming GoTY favorite), Mortal Kombat X, and Arkham Knight, good work WB I dunno how this happened but keep doing what you’re doing.