Dir Guy Ritchie UK, Australia, US (PG13)
Arthur Conan Doyle described his creation as a man of ‘peculiarities’, of a racing mind yet – our favourite – ‘the worst tenant in London,’ a slob. The author never had the pleasure of witnessing Robert Downey Jr claw his way out of the abyss, but you can’t help but think he’d be pleased with the casting.
Into Sherlock Holmes’ digitised 1891 London steps Downey, who peps up his performance with so much attitude that you wish the whole schlocky movie spinning around him would just calm down and take notice. We see his Holmes get doused with a glass of red wine after surmising one too many details about the fiancée of his trusted aide, Dr Watson (Jude Law); the next moment is perfect. The couple abandons our soggy snoop at the dinner table and he continues eating alone, happily.
The movie, however, is not made by a loner, but rather, one imagines, a large committee of people-pleasers. (Even the blockbuster Iron Man feels more personally acute). Strenuously, it’s established that Holmes is a brawler, a man of action prone to bare-knuckle bouts and gambling – as if the idea of a cerebral hero is somehow distasteful. (Conan Doyle gave his hero robust tastes, but calculating body blows in slow motion is taking the idea too far). The whirling, clamorous plot involves something to do with a black-clad cult leader (Mark Strong) and another secret sect of city protectors; honestly, you won’t be able to explain it.
This is the ultimate sin of the film, generically helmed by lad-auteur Guy Ritchie. Logic seems to be thrown out the window in order to make room for clashes on a partially completed Tower Bridge. It’s way too elementary.