MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Sherlock Holmes, Into Temptation

Sherlock Holmes (Three Stars)
U.S.; Guy Ritchie, 2009

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fog-bound, spellbinding adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were among the magical books of my childhood. The game’s afoot! “Elementary, my dear Watson.” The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I even invented my own counterfeit Holmes and Watson — called Nicholas Spencer and Omar Atkins — and starred them in a series of adventures, written from the third grade on. Ah, as the Sherlockians say, though he could be more humble, there’s no police like Holmes!Here, whether we like it or not, we have a sort of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, thrust by Guy Ritchie into a spectacular cliffhanger adventure yarn that might seem more appropriate for Batman and Robin or the incredible Fu Manchu. As played, rather eccentrically but likeably by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, Holmes and Watson are joined by Rachel MacAdams as that woman Irene Adler, and they all race around London, kicking and kung-fuing away, battling supernatural villains, throttling giants, knocking over and pre-launching ships, swinging from crumbling, half-erected towers and otherwise proving that, in the world of Hollywood and Guy Ritchie, nothing is elementary.

The movie starts absurdly, with Downey’s unshaven and slovenly Holmes (cocaine?) somersaulting and drop-kicking a bad guy. But soon Downey, who projects as much intelligence as any current Hollywood star, begins cracking some Sherlockian riddles with dexterity, deducing whole reams of biography from a mud stain or two, and proving that he’s not just a pretty face or a martial arts head-banger. Law is a little acerbic for my taste; he’s so rough with Holmes, he seems to be in charge of his pal’s drug rehabilitation. And MacAdams manages to resemble Joan Collins’ skinnier niece, while suggesting also the very talents that allegedly won Joan the nickname The British Open.

The movie is astonishingly well-designed and stunningly photographed (by Philippe Rousselot), and I actually think it’s Richie’s best picture. But that only goes to show how little I liked the others (Lock, Stock excepted). However good Downey and Law may be at times, the memories of Basil Rathbone’s Holmes and Nigel Bruce’s Watson are in no danger. Nor is the stature of Billy Wilder’s unhappily compromised and mutilated The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a shame though that we never saw Wilder’s original choices for the roles of Holmes and Watson: Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers.


Into Temptation (Two and a Half Stars)
U. S.; Patrick Coyle

John Buerlein, an unshaven, hip, weary young Catholic pastor (played by Jeremy Sisto) , working too hard at St. Mary Magdalen’s Downtown Catholic Church in Minneapolis, hears a jarring confession, about her own impending suicide, from a young masseuse (Kristin Chenoweth). Though he’s barely seen the hooker Linda, and doesn’t know her name, he succumbs to temptation, and descends into the world of prostitution and sex for sale, to try to find and save her. Salvation, however is never easy, grace always elusive.

A trifle over-pat and slow, but well-written and extremely well-acted, this Minneapolis regional film by Patrick Coyle (Detective Fiction), who is a local film and TV actor-writer-director and also artistic director of Minneapolis’s Original Theater Company head, is an admirable, smart independent movie. All the acting is fine, especially Brian Baumgartner (a Minnesotan as well as Office cast member) as Father John’s own father confessor, Ralph, Ansa Akyea as an ex-fighter/guide to the underworld, and Coyle himself as a worshipful accountant-client of Linda’s.
The movie could use more surprise, edge and real pain. But Coyle works well in the realist-idealist vein of Kazan, Mulligan and Lumet, and it’s a pleasure to watch his, and his ensemble’s, skill, invention and aspiration.

– Michael Wilmington
December 24, 2009

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon