In Theaters: Sherlock Holmes
As the new and implausible Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. again lends his eccentric charms and complexly freighted persona -- post-meltdown, he has cultivated and strategically deployed a hair-trigger vulnerability, as though complete dissolution is always one of twelve steps away -- to a role that doesn't deserve them. Guy Ritchie and a posse of screenwriters (including Anthony Peckham, who wrote Invictus) seem to have reconceived Arthur Conan Doyle's methodical, champion sleuther with Downey in mind; now he's more of a self-destructive wag with a sociopathic commitment to sussing out everything from advanced chemical reactions to your fiancée's psychological profile. As the central bad boy in Ritchie's painfully macho, laboriously kinetic conception of a spooky, nineteenth century murder mystery, Downey pushes his own schtick to its logical end -- tedium -- and then somehow lugs it right on through to the other side, arriving at something like grudging admiration. That's dedication, but is it art?
For Ritchie and everyone else involved in this film, the answer is a big old nay. The storyline is tortured beyond recognition, Holmes is a ridiculous hybrid of madman and superhero, and the broad, hammy action set pieces are a clear and cynical grab at a Pirates of the Caribbean-type franchise. Some redemption is found in the friendship between Holmes and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law); when their deeply rooted bromance is threatened by Watson's engagement to a dull woman named Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), Holmes is reduced to his most petulant dudgeon. The two nip at each other like old ladies, scuffle like little boys, and most importantly, strike manly poses together in seriously natty threads. Certainly they share more chemistry than all the cleavage and lipstick at Rachel McAdam's disposal is able to generate between Holmes and her character, a former flame and current grifter named Irene Adler.
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