Sherlock isn’t Holmes
Guy Ritchie’s second go at Sherlock Holmes overflows with frenetic action, jumbled plotting, bickering characters and trick photography. It’s a children’s movie seeking an adult audience because children would never tolerate its long runtime or its unsuccessful humor.
Robert Downey Jr., capable of charming us, plays Holmes as part hooligan and part arrogant boor. Our deductive friend has become a master of martial arts, foreseeing, in slow-motion, precisely how he will defeat his opponents. Each vision is followed by the actual fight, repeated precisely as he imagined – this time at normal speed. Over the course of a half-dozen encounters, the formula wears thin.
As the story opens, a disguised Holmes tracks down his feisty love interest, Irene (Rachel McAdams), to warn her that working with criminal mastermind Moriarty (Jared Harris) is perilous. Holmes believes Moriarty is linked to a series of anarchist bombings, but he is slow to ascertain the criminal’s true agenda.
The detective is more concerned with the inconvenient nuptials of his one friend, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), and expends a great deal of energy to ensure Watson’s wedding will be a cliffhanger.
Holmes invites his brilliant brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry), to Watson’s stag party, then proceeds to ignore both his friend and his brother in favor of a gypsy fortune teller whose adventures feel empty, but that nevertheless prove integral to solving Moriarty’s mysterious motivations.
After ensuring that Watson has drunk more than a sailor on leave, Holmes delivers his friend to the altar at the last possible moment. Watson hopes to spend his honeymoon with his bride, but the great detective literally shoves her aside in order to enlist Watson’s help saving the world.
The film’s climactic sequence, played out during its final 20 minutes, is much improved from the hundred minutes that precede it, and lifts the action from London’s mean streets into the corridors of power.
However, Sherlock Holmes no longer possesses the powers of reason that inform his superior intellect. His deductions occur only after the fact, announcing other aspects of the story that the action is unable to convey.
What would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have thought of these shenanigans? “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
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