It sounds like a genius idea: Reinvent stuffy, intellectual Sherlock Holmes as a depraved, brilliant, rakish, martial-arts expert, cast Robert Downey Jr (Chaplin meets Iron Man!) and hire an actual actress, instead of a hot chick who can recite lines, to play the love interest! Finally, hire Brit Guy Ritchie to turn this puppy into a fast-paced, visually aggressive blockbuster! It looked so promising. It sounded so cool. Sadly, Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes feels like a victim of Hollywood bloat. Big stars. Big budget. Big concept. No soul.
Visually the film’s soot-covered color palette invokes images of Jack the Ripper’s London, with all color and life drained from the screen. The ashy landscape fits Sherlock’s down-on-his-luck psyche (he’s a lonely, lovelorn, misunderstood drunk), and is about as far from the cotton candy colors of something like Pirates of the Caribbean as you could get, which may turn off younger viewers. The coal-covered palette may have kids yearning to sneak into a prettier looking picture, but the plot? Well… I’m still wondering about that one myself.
Holmes suffers from convoluted plot lines that never really mesh, and judging from the gaggle of writers credited on the film (and who knows how many pissed off uncredited writers are lurking out there), it’s no surprise. From what I gathered, Sherlock and his loyal sidekick Watson (Jude Law, walking through the movie pretty much) MUST investigate the mysterious death and apparent resurrection of an aristocrat with the super clever name Lord Blackwood who practices “the dark arts” and aims to take over the government. This isn’t a Christopher Nolan movie, so really going dark with the black magic elements and making them legitimately threatening gets watered down to the point where there’s nothing frightening or scary to keep people on the edge of their seats. Which seems to be the fatal flaw of the movie – it’s pretending to be edgy, when really it’s about as gritty as Mary Poppins. Maybe less so.
Robert Downey Jr flits around and hams it up to his heart’s desire, but there’s no real magic in his performance. I blame the director. It feels like Ritchie just let his main man run amok and do anything he wanted from scene to scene, which basically results in a yawn inducing performance by a great actor. Same with Law. As they say, there’s just no there, there. Emotionally, their performances are lazy. There are a few great moments between them, but not enough to sustain the film. Rachel McAdams does her damndest to bring passion and guts to a very underwritten role. I actually wish SHE had been cast as Sherlock. Would have been a lot more fun.
So what’s good about Ritchie’s Holmes? Well, the art department was on the right track. There are a few fun action sequences. McAdams is a badass. Ummm… the villain looks like Andy Garcia? That’s all I got. Skip it.
Review by The Elf