Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s story puts the detective in a fin-de-siècle London full of grime, deception and, apparently, an idiotic number of pointless boxing matches, myriad extraneous distractions and the sort of boorish, uncultured amusements and entertainments audiences have come to expect from this lad ‘auteur’. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law star, respectively, as Holmes and Dr. Watson, two Victorian-era private dicks in pursuit of a murderer who also happens to be a powerful member of the House of Lords (Mark Strong, Revolver) and are simultaneously put upon by a woman (an out-of-place Rachel McAdams) who asks them to track down a missing man known simply as “Reordan.”
Supernatural goings-on and several metric tonnes’ worth of explosions, dockside and elsewhere—including a completely overblown, stupefyingly long finalé on the not-yet-complete Tower Bridge, shown here through the ‘magic’ of some Z-grade green screen—ensue. While RDJ is charming and witty as always, Law seems singly disinterested in his character, passing through with a minimal performance. Making matters worse, the director has gratuitously dumbed-down the century-old Holmes legend:— “Elementary, dear viewer,” Richie seems to be saying, “I don’t care for the story; I just like fist-fights, tightly-corseted women and blowing stuff up.” In fact, this may as well have been a narrative of the filmmakers’ own invention, so far is our hero from the inquisitive, sophisticate Holmes of yore.
The director should have stuck with what he knows best—contemporary crime flicks like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels—but with a sequel, un-imaginatively titled Sherlock Holmes 2, in the works, that probably won’t happen anytime soon.