Vic’s Review – “Sherlock: The Empty Hearse” (2014)

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What’s it About?

Mycroft calls Sherlock back to London to investigate an underground terrorist organization.

“The Empty Hearse”

Directed by Jeremy Lovering

By Vic

Man, it was great to finally sit back and soak in a new “Sherlock” movie. This one being “The Empty Hearse,” the first installment of Series (Or Season) 3. It seems like forever since “The Reichenbach Falls” Season 2 finale and I was so stoked to spend an hour and a half with Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Despite the time that has passed, with Freeman doing The Hobbit films and Cumberbatch doing Trek and other films, these guys have not missed a beat and watching it felt like slipping on a pair of my favorite slippers.

So, I settled in my ass grove and watched “The Empty Hearse” hoping things were somewhat the way the show’s creators left it. I had to admit I was a bit apprehensive. So, did it disappoint? Hell no. It even exceeded my expectations! That being said I totally geeked out over this comeback tale with my buddies Watson and Sherlock getting into the thick of things once again.

This entry, while being a bit self righteous in parts and even somewhat self reverential, is a complete blast. The material is a somewhat worn and not too sharp where it needs to be but I overlooked those shortcomings and enjoyed the return of the brilliant writers and creators, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to this universe. I mean, this is the first story and it’s got to be a bit rough around the edges, no? I feel that Gatiss and Moffat will find their groove by the next installment for sure. Hey, not every Foyle’s War series began with a bang.

Two years after his “demise” at the end of the last installment, Sherlock, with the help of his brother, Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), heads back to London. He does so after being tracked down by his brother, in Serbia, during an interrogation. Sherlock, chained and bearded, is being slowly pummeled to death. Mycroft obviously intervenes after Sherlock gets his attacker to head home upon Sherlock’s observation that his wife may be cheating on him. Mycroft tells Sherlock that his return to London is imminent since he needs Sherlock’s help with an underground terrorist cell that may be in hiding. Sherlock, still in chains, looks up and smiles.

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Classic Sherlock. I really liked how this entry started. The real start, though,  is the quite comical theories that Anderson expounds upon Lestrade, trying to convince him how Sherlock may have duped everyone and is still probably alive. This one-two intro punch from writer Gatiss is the springboard for a very dynamic and complex story where all of the actors shine in all their comfortable glory.

Meanwhile, John has moved on with his fiance, Mary (Amanda Abbington), and has grown a beard. He has established a practice in London where he goes day in and day out with normalcy and repetition. Nothing exciting ever happens and Watson believes he likes it that way. Watson, with Mary, even visits Sherlock’s grave and it’s also shown that he hasn’t had much contact with Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) after Sherlock’s death either.

The film, for me, really starts when Sherlock returns to London. He finds out from Mycroft that Watson is still in town (after he sarcastically tells Sherlock that “They meet every Friday for fish and chips”) and Sherlock decides to spring up on him but in a way that may not be too shocking to Watson’s system. It doesn’t go well. In a long but funny sequence, which begins in a high end restaurant (where Watson prepares to propose to Mary), Sherlock impersonates a waiter in order to catch Watson’s attention.

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Here, Freeman shines brightly, and when he does, his reaction is sublime and powerful. Then the fisticuffs begin. Watson, over a period of about 3 times, assaults Sherlock every time he says something Watson does not want to hear. Mary, on the other hand, tells Watson that she likes him, and secretly, she is grateful that Sherlock is back in John’s life. Such as it is.

Sherlock moves back into the iconic apartment 221b on Baker Street, after a hilarious meeting up with Mrs. Watson, and gets back to work. Various sequences come and go, here. Sherlock takes clients and an assistant, Mary reads Watson’s blog and Anderson continues with his Sherlock club, The Empty Hearse. Mycroft and Sherlock bicker, Waston decides to shave off his mustache but still avoids Sherlock, you get the picture. Sherlock’s new case begins with trying to track down suspicious activity and persons in the underground network that may exist, with Mycroft’s help.

I don’t wish to get into anymore of “The Empty Hearse” since doing so would involve spoilers and there are so many little twists and turns in the plot to soak in and process. The movie is indeed complex but not overly so and it is quite accessible to even the most casual viewer or even non Arthur Conan Doyle readers. Sure, the plot has been done before and there are parts where some lazy writing comes through but I felt it was fleeting and not too distracting. Die hards may want to rip my head off for liking this episode but I don’t care. I am not a purist even though I have liked many cinematic interpretations of Sherlock Holmes down the years. From Basil Rathbone to even Richard Roxburgh (his version of Holmes in Hound of the Baskervilles was amazing). I have been guilty of even starting several Holmes novels and never completing them but I have finished some.

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I sympathize with Gatiss and Moffat who have to find a middle ground for an installment that is already pretty hyped up. The show is only 90 minutes long and Sherlock’s return, Watson’s personal life and the actual terrorism story had to be crunched in, here. It’s no easy task and trying to be faithful to the lore, please fans and tell a consistently good tale is hard to do. Especially when it’s a Holmes story and we expect to be stimulated by his deductions and his idiosyncrasies.

This entry succeeds for me on most levels. Yes, it’s too quick on it’s feet and flashy. Yes, it doesn’t give us much time to catch our collective breathes but it sure looks darn good. The last harrowing (and quite comical) act when Sherlock and Watson make their way to the underground to diffuse a bomb on a train car is pure adrenaline and escapist fun.

Whatever lies ahead in the next 2 entries is anyone’s guess. For some it just will get better and better and for some it will just continue in it’s mundane and mediocre path reflecting the disdain some will have for “The Empty Hearse” Me, I had a great time watching this and I had lots of fun getting to know these 2 fine blokes all over again. Even after 2 years. I think you will too. Recommended!

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