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Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes (right) and Jude Law as Watson. (ALEX BAILEY/© 2009 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - - U.S., Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda?© 2009 Village Roadshow Films (BVI) Limited - - All O)
Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes (right) and Jude Law as Watson. (ALEX BAILEY/© 2009 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - - U.S., Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda?© 2009 Village Roadshow Films (BVI) Limited - - All O)

Sherlock Holmes as a smelly man of action Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Sherlock Holmes

  • Directed by Guy Ritchie
  • Written by Michael Robert Johnson and Andrew Peckham
  • Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams
  • Classification: PG

The new Sherlock Holmes provides an answer to a question that probably shouldn't have been asked: How can Sherlock Holmes's character be adapted to an action flick?

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The idea of getting under Holmes's deerstalker cap and rewiring the character seems legitimate, and casting idiosyncratic actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law is inspired. But Guy Ritchie's Holmes reboot feels both too complicated and too elementary, dear Watson.

Director Ritchie's best work has been in his Cockney caper flicks ( Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels , Snatch and RocknRolla ), which feature knotted plots and colourful characters. This time out, Ritchie is primarily a director for hire, lending his hip spin to establish a new franchise.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams.

How that is intended to shape up is indicated by Sarah Greenwood's goth comic production design - emphasizing computer-generated grey skies, huge mechanical contraptions and a half-built Tower Bridge - which has a distinctly Dark Knight vibe. Sherlock Holmes 's tone, though, is much more flippant. The guiding hand you feel is of blockbuster producer Joel Silver. He was the force behind the Lethal Weapon series, featuring bantering buddy cops, ambitious villains, lots of explosions and a thundering score.

The few pleasures here come from the performances by Downey and Law. Downey's eccentric Holmes is in many ways truer to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories than the relatively sanitized Basil Rathbone version. He's portrayed as a dissolute, half-shaven bohemian with a poor sense of hygiene and manic-depressive swings. Pushing the macho Holmes idea a bit too far, though, the script sees him as a participant in bare-knuckle bouts in filthy pubs.

Law's Watson is not really a sidekick but a partner. They engage in a half-hostile, half-flirtatious affectionate banter which, unfortunately, never feels as twinkling as the scriptwriters seem to think it is. The possessive Holmes is distressed that Watson wants to move out of their Baker Street pigsty to marry, of all things, a woman (Kelly Reilly). When he finally meets her, Holmes is so offensive that she pours a drink over his head.

Holmes gets a woman in his own life when Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) lets herself into his Baker Street digs. She's a con-artist who has some history with Holmes, but now she has a job for him, she says. There's a dwarf who needs to be found (isn't there always?).

Soon Holmes finds himself caught up in a plot of stupor-inducing complexity. It involves ritual murders, a secret order and an aristocratic sorcerer (Mark Strong) who is hanged and then stages his own resurrection. Though he possesses some of the worst inclinations of Dracula and Hitler, he comes across as a lesser Harry Potter villain with a penchant for needlessly elaborate methods of dispatching people.

Among the supporting cast, Eddie Marsan's truculent Inspector Lestrade is amusing, but most characters exist only in snippets between the action sequences. McAdams, in particular, has little time to establish why her character is supposed to be so fascinating.

The movie concludes by setting up an inevitable sequel in which Holmes and Watson are pitted against the diabolical Professor Moriarty. And none too soon: The franchise is definitely in need of a mastermind, criminal or otherwise.

Follow on Twitter: @liamlacey

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