This Sherlock Holmes is certainly not Basil Rathbone's interpretation of the great, sleuthing London detective at the end of the 19th Century.
Guy Ritchie's first PG-13 film stars Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong and is open for future installments based on the result of this fairly entertaining, amusing holiday offering. Barry Levinson's 1985 Young Sherlock Holmes gave the quintessential British character the Hollywood treatment during boarding school.
The storyline, on which a trio collaborated, including Anthony Peckham (Invictus) and Simon Kinberg (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), looks into visceral, streetsmart detective Sherlock Holmes, the versatile Downey. With stalwart partner Dr. John Watson, a laudable Law, he engages in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis, Lord Blackwood (Strong of Ritchie's RocknRolla), whose plot could leave London and England, for that matter, in a tattered state.
From the ads of a film with a wide demographic, it's pretty clear that besides being able to catch on to unctuous individuals, this instinctive "consulting detective" who is not morally depraved is flashy as a boxer, stick fighter, swordsman, and in the martial arts. Not bad for someone who also is in tune with the violin.
Not that dissimilar from his Iron Man Tony Stark, Downey, Jr. manages the necessary edge and cunning in what may be a bit anachronistic in Ritchie's reimagining as a modern adventure with the trappings in the advent of the Industrial Age. Holmes here is disheveled, a bit manic and fast-talking.
The formidable Scotland Yard seems to be no match for the unrepentant, merciless Lord Blackwood who is driven by deep ambition and black magic. Holmes and Watson, eyeing domesticity with a fiancee (Keilly Reilly), try to thwart the practitioner's "resurrection" as idiosyncratic techniques and his pugilistic prowess come into play in what is a race against time.
McAdams (very good in the political thriller State of Play earlier this year), brings some allure and mystery as the temperamental Irene Adler whom Holmes becomes attached to. Suffice to say, there isn't the on-screen rapport going for them like the tempestuous camraderie displayed (a bit bromantically tinged) by a devil-may-care, lightly hirsute Downey and a wryly pungent Law.
Therefore, the women come off in a lesser light because of the way the script is aligned not for its dialogue and thoughtfulness. In addition to Strong whose character claims "death has no power over him", notable support comes from Eddie Marsan (Hancock, Happy-Go-Lucky) as a fellow inspector who looks up to Holmes, but is also troubled by his presence.
Who knows what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who created many short stories and four novels) would think of such a vigorous, action-packed discerner of the truth? But, this is Ritchie's most propulsive picture in some time with a particularly grungy London on view, briskly edited and packs some of the punch of his Snatch and even Fight Club. An increasingly creative sonorous quality is infused through Hans Zimmer's score which starts out somewhat off-putting. But, like Sherlock Holmes and Downey, Jr., too, it has a startingly colorfulness that makes something indefatigable you can trust in.