When it was announced that Guy Ritchie was to bring a new version of Sherlock Holmes to the big screen, many thought that the director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the iconic gentleman sleuth created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would not make for easy bedfellows. And now that we’ve seen Richie’s revamped Holmes in all its glory, it seems the sceptics were right. For although this modern Sherlock may be popcorn friendly it is, in essence, a by-the-numbers action movie with misplaced literary pretensions that will leave fans of the novel cold.
Hit or miss?
In a way, Michael Keaton shares similar traits with Robin Williams and Jack Nicholson – although to be sure, he’s not as straightjacketed by his own persona as the latter. The point being, that all three actors have an extrovert/introvert switch (see Beetlejuice), and when playing the introvert, there’s always the possibility that the fire within can be tapped at any time. This works to Keaton’s advantage in The Merry Gentleman, in which he remains very much muted and controlled – both on and off screen. For this is also his first directorial effort.
Keaton plays Frank, a hired gun of few words, and for all intents a blank slate, on which the audience can imprint their own history. Frank forms a bond with Kate (Kelly MacDonald), a similarly closed-down soul, who is escaping her own past – this being established via a dialogue-free prologue.
It’s a low-key film, sustained primarily through MacDonald’s sweet, earnest performance and Keaton’s stillness. Although it must be said, the hit-man with a heart isn’t the most original conceit. With recurrent periods of pensive silence from the Keaton camp, there’s a door open to ambiguity within the piece, but it doesn’t really lead to any gut-wrenching epiphany or indeed any rousing moments to speak of. Slight it may be, but that’s a complimentary aspect to a film, which seems for all intents satisfied with its own modest ambition. 3 stars
Small offerings include the trailer, plus a fifteen-minute making of, which provides a brief history of the project, but mostly just b-roll footage. 2 stars
Stars Michael Keaton, Kelly MacDonald
Director Michael Keaton
Distributor Universal Pictures
Released April 5
You cannot be serious…
It’s the late 1960s in the midwest USA, and Larry Gonik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a normal Jewish man, trying to raise his family as best he can. His life is by no means easy – his troubled brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his doctor wants to talk to him about some test results and his kids are driving him crazy – but Larry is happy enough. Happy, that is, until his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) announces she is leaving him for the overbearingly pompous Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). As Larry attempts to seek answers from three different rabbis, he begins to wonder what it’s going to take to keep the faith.