What a mixed bag of a movie.
On one hand, you get the inspired choices for Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson, and Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, an exceptional criminal and Sherlock’s lady love.
But, on the other hand, you get a weak script, action-movie trappings, and a lot of silly red herrings.
“Sherlock Holmes” opens with an execution; after a killing spree through London, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) has been captured and sentenced to hang. Like all death-row inmates, he has one last request for a meeting with his nemesis, where Blackwood promises Holmes that the world will see the impossible and will then come to an end.
Strong stuff from a cornered man, and Holmes ignores it, but when Blackwood’s body disappears and he’s killing people again, even Holmes is given to doubt logic and believe in magic.
Blah, blah, blah.
Maybe the world has just outgrown Holmes, but I was really expecting something a little more interesting. Instead, we get Holmes, the greatest literary thinker ever stuck in a second-rate action movie, complete with preposterous sequences and unbelievable escapes from death.
What saves the movie is the chemistry of the three leads. In one welcome departure, Holmes is not the cool thinker as in past movies; he’s arrogant, washed up (something Downey Jr. no doubt can connect with) and keeps using his considerable gifts to convince Watson to dump his charming fiance. Watson is bit fed up with Holmes’ antics and is set to end their partnership, but he keeps getting dragged back in to the adventure.
Law and Downey Jr. sizzle as a crime-stopping duo, and they provide the lightness the rest of the movie desperately lacks. McAdams’ Irene Adler is another breath of air here, with her unclear motivations and scofflaw attitude (the perfect foil for the law-abiding Holmes) providing a good contrast to the dour goings-on in the rest of the show.
“Sherlock Holmes” wanted to be a serious mystery film, but it would have made a much better light drama/dark comedy, more “Castle,” and less “V.” Director Guy Ricthie wants to infuse the audience with dread of what’s to come, but since we *know* magic isn’t real (and that some logical clue will be explained to us through endless exposition), we don’t even get to enjoy the ride.
It could have been a fun adventure, but it’s just a bland mystery and dull action flick with a killer, but wasted, cast. Shame, shame, shame.
“Sherlock Holmes” (2009)
Written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram and Michael Robert Johnson
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Jude Law (Dr. Watson)
Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler)
Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood)