In Theaters: Sherlock Holmes

Movieline Score:

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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  • Louis Virtel says:

    Ugh. This film is tying off the decade the way Wild Wild West ended the '90s -- with bombast, bastardized source material, and a duo of overscrubbed stars. Love this review, Michelle.

  • Speedy says:

    Best. Review. Ever. I am sorry to say I am, nonetheless, compelled to see this trainwreck. Why don't they let US make these films, Michelle? We'd actually know how to do it!

  • snickers says:

    I had hopes for this, but they were dashed when Guy Ritchie's name surfaced as director. What a shame. Good review, thanks.

  • Harold X says:

    The Conan Doyle estate should sue. If not, perhaps a class action from the Baker Street Irregulars? (And yes, I did see it).
    The while thing is pitched to a sequel; if there's any justice, Holmes, Watson and -- perhaps especially -- Lestrade will be left to rest in peace.

  • stretch65 says:

    I'd seen it all before - it was called Shanghi Knights...

  • Old No.7 says:

    Somebody please inform Mr. Madonna that MTV died in the 90's, and that you do not need to edit motion pictures as such.
    Excellent review.

  • Ben says:

    See I don't understand what your problem is.
    I mean I guess if you were going there to see something that was 100% canon, then sure be angry. But if you wanted that, why not read the book?
    Seriously, the only thing that was THAT DIFFERENT was that he knew how to fight.
    You complain about how he's self destructive. Sherlock Holmes did drugs... In the books..............K, next.
    Grab at the Pirates of the Caribbean? Because of that one scene where the ship falls into the water? Or because there's that one sword fight at the end? Or because there are Fist fights throughout the movie. Or maybe it was because of one or two scenes where there's breaking of wood.
    Obviously Pirates was the first to cash in on those ideas.
    So you're mad that there's more relationship between Watson and Holmes then Watson and Mary?
    Well the story is about Sherlock Holmes. And Watson always follows him.
    We didn't go to watch a movie about Watson getting Hitched. And another thing, (tell me if I have just plainly read this wrong) you complain that they bicker like old ladies or whatnot? Okay wouldn't you with your best friend/roommate of WHO KNOWS how many years, whom you know which buttons to press to tick them off, do the same exact thing if they were threatening to move out?
    You were mad at Irene.
    Yeah she was awful.
    Good call.
    They Strike Manly poses.
    .....Uhm...So you don't like that it's more actiony now? I dunno, I thought it was cool when he knew exactly how to bring people down. But okay, your opinion.
    You're mad that it was a grand scheme to take over the world rather then just some senseless murderer.
    Well okay where's the story in that? "Someone killed Billy! Call Sherlock." "Oh look, John's shoe is left here." The end.
    There's no story if the villain isn't at least somewhat of an evil genius.
    You're mad about the Black arts?
    Turns out there are none and that it's all science.
    And he deduces this by only examining the little things.
    Didn't Sherlock always do things like that?
    The Ending.
    So you're saying you would have rather had him blurt out everything he found when he found it? So he can spoil everything for you? The fact that you see the flashbacks of how he ties everything together by noticing the smallest thing is what makes it so thrilling.
    Okay, so it's cliche by being up high. Is that a problem? Cliche is something we as a civilization seem to love.
    You don't care who did what? Maybe, but only if it was because that Irene girl kept coming on.
    All in all, I don't see what your problem is, other then you were just complaining.