Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law
Direction: Guy Ritchie
Rating: ** & 1/2
His exploits have been portrayed on film countless times over the last century. Yet filmmakers continue to be fascinated by Sherlock Holmes, the fictional super sleuth with an unparalleled genius for crime-solving.
Now British director Guy Ritchie, who has slammed out such high-octane gangster flicks as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, brings his hyper-kinetic visual style to this revisionist spin on the iconic character who appeared in a series of short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.
So it’s action all the way with scant regard for a hectic plot centering on Holmes (Downey Jr) and his equally famous sidekick, Dr Watson (Law). The daredevil duo must foil the dastardly plans of an occultist (Mark Strong, rather weak as the villain) with delusions of world domination.
Soon, Holmes’s former paramour (Rachel McAdams, uncharacteristically vapid), his partner’s fiancée (Kelly Reilly) and a bunch of kill-happy henchmen all enter the picture to further complicate the scenario.
Ritchie employs a whole bag of gimmicks — illustrating Holmes’s strategy against a boxing opponent in slow-motion before switching to the bare-knuckled action at normal speed — to lend momentum to the narrative. The results, though loud and explosive, are also outmoded.
On the other hand, the banter between the two crime fighters is actually quite funny. Also, the cinematography and the Victorian-era production design are a visual treat. A considerable part of the film’s charm can be attributed to the tough-guy moxie of Robert Downey Jr. By contrast, Jude Law’s portrayal of Dr Watson is far too sketchy to leave an impression.
Neither great nor ghastly Sherlock Holmes just about makes it to the see-grade. Hopefully, the promised sequel which will pit the detective against his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, will make for more satisfactory viewing.