Before Batman, James Bond, and CSI, there was Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Guy Ritchie gives the famed sleuth a snazzy dressup with Robert Downey Jr. as the titular hero. Solving crimes, speaking in a guttural baritone, and tasked with saving the modern world from the criminal elite, Sherlock Holmes uses his wits to gain the edge.
And with this most modern take, the sleuth is surrounded by grand vistas, slick production values, and an ensemble cast that’s, for the most part, quite solid.
Unfortunately, despite being buoyed by an abundance of wealth, there’s still something lacking where it really counts.
After Holmes and his partner Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) stop occultist Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) from taking another victim, the criminal somehow returns to life after his execution.
As the country falls under a spell of panicked hysteria, Sherlock deals with a possibly supernatural scenario. Meanwhile, Watson plans to move on and marry, but no one can escape a good plot. The game is afoot, and the duo find themselves in a war against an undead villain trying to conquer the world.
Downey and Law are a one-two punch team, and the partnership is exclusive — Rachel McAdams’ turn as Irene Adler, the woman who tricked Holmes not once but twice, feels a bit third-wheel. Pacing overall is an issue — when Holmes and Watson aren’t working directly on the main plot, the movie sort of chugs along waiting for something to happen.
Were it not for the inconsistencies, this could have been a great film. Holmes’ deductive reasoning is put on display when we get a glimpse into how the genius’ mind works. It’s a sight to see Holmes run through an attack plan then execute it with precision or take in the most minute details while seeing the bigger picture. Downey plays neurotic and incorrigible, and he looks like he’s having a ton of fun doing it. Somehow, he manages to make Holmes both endearing and maddening at the same time, and Law’s Watson plays the perfect balance.
The pair take on mental and physical battles with Hans Zimmer’s detuned piano soundtrack adding to the mix.
On the outside, there’s much to like, but on a deeper level, the meandering of the plot and the use of twists within twists add a tediousness to the movie that places a bit of distance between the characters and the audience.
It’s like finding out the smartest kid in class, the one that ruined the curve for everyone, was fed the answers all along.
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