The great Victorian detective returns in this action thriller directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr (in a Golden Globe-winning performance), Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong. Based on a new story by producer Lionel Wigram using Arthur Conan Doyle's famous characters, the film follows Sherlock Holmes (Downey Jr) and his loyal assistant Dr Watson (Law) as they deal with a mysterious new nemesis: Lord Blackwood (Strong), a cult leader and Satanist who harbours the most deadly of intentions. Abandoning the accepted portrayals of Holmes and Watson, as perfected by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in the films of the 1930s and '40s, Downey Jr's Holmes is a modern, bohemian man of action and intellect, while Law's Watson is no longer the bumbling fool of old, but a much sharper character with an eye for the ladies and a taste for gambling.
If you’ve got too many pre-conceptions of just how a Sherlock Holmes
movie should pan out, then it’s probably best that you check them in before popping this latest version in your player. Starring Robert Downey Jr. in the title role and accompanied by Jude Law as Watson, this film dispenses with some of the conventions of Holmes, and instead starts turning him into something of a period action hero.
Downey Jr. is more than up to the challenge too. Early scenes in Sherlock Holmes are more Fight Club than sleuth-influenced, with the hand of director Guy Ritchie behind the camera being very clear. But the film soon settles down and starts to have some fun, with the able assistance of Mark Strong and Rachel McAdams, among the supporting cast.
Yet this is Downey Jr.’s show, and he doesn’t waste the opportunity. He’s an engaging leading man at the worst of times, and he’s clearly having a ball here. What’s more, it’s immensely satisfying when his Sherlock Holmes gets down to the business of solving crimes, even though there are some really quite impressive action sequences to work through first.
There are problems, of course. There’s not enough flesh on the bones of some of the characters, and the early part of the film feels very different from the latter stages. But there’s solid groundwork here for the inevitable franchise, and watching Downey Jr. reprise the role of Sherlock Holmes over the next few years should be really quite good fun too. --Jon Foster
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