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SHERLOCK HOLMES (director: Guy Ritchie; screenwriters: Michael Robert Johnson/Anthony Peckham/Simon Kinberg/based on a story by Robert Johnson and Lionel Wigram and characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle; cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot; editor: James Herbert; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Mark Strong (Lord Blackwood), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade), Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan), Hans Matheson (Lord Coward), James Fox (Sir Thomas), William Hope (Ambassador Standish), Oran Gurel (Reordan), Geraldine James (Mrs. Hudson); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Mr. Wigram/Joel Silver/Susan Downey/Dan Lin; Warner Bros.; 2009)
“One for this modern age of non-thinking action-packed blockbuster movies.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Audacious Brit director Guy Ritchie (“Snatch”/”Revolver”/”Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrels”) turns up the volume to make this outrageously loud Sherlock Holmes tale a super-charged action pic that has the sleuth as a tortured soul and a fierce fighter who craves adventure. He would be like James Bond, but for being so contemplative and the film being so dark. But it has a superb twitchy performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, who is viewed as a slob, madman experimenter, a possessor of a brilliant rational deductive reasoning mind and a wearer of a porkpie hat (no deerstalker here), to keep things interesting between pratfalls, kinetic chases, fights and ham-fisted direction.

Ritchie got more things wrong in his take on Holmes than right, as he gives way too much attitude for Holmes to come through as the cerebral supersleuth we knew from the Basil Rathbone films (making Holmes into a muscular superhero, with mixed results). The gloomy and ridiculous action hero tale, one for this modern age of non-thinking action-packed blockbuster movies, is filled with wall-to-wall choreographed action sequences, comical treats (my favorite is Sherlock saying goodbye to Trotsky as he exits a London jail), explosions, bare-knuckle fighting sequences, chases, a resurrected villain with magical powers, and ends with a terrorist plot to blow up Parliament (think modern!).

It’s based on a story by Robert Johnson and Lionel Wigram, and is written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg. The characters are based on those created by Arthur Conan Doyle, but though some props are given to Doyle it’s questionable if he would have penned such a dark action-filled tale.

It’s set in the dank streets of Victorian England, in 1891, and has its climax on the girders of an uncompleted Tower Bridge.

The love story has a handsome and intelligent Dr. Watson (Jude Law), no bumbler here, moving out of the Baker Street flat he shares with the master detective Holmes, to marry the sweet Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). This makes Holmes jealous with envy. But Holmes soon finds that his old love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the attractive and very smart crime queen, has returned with the hots for him. But their romance is stymied by a lack of trust each has for the other. It’s also troubling because a miscast McAdams is not convincing as the devious lady of mystery who has the ability to outsmart Holmes.

The action story hasthe aristocratic black magician Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong), in a strong villain performance, boldly saying “death is only the beginning” and soon after defies reason by returning from the dead after being hanged in prison as a brutal serial killer of five women.Blackwell now sets out to show England he will bring a New World Order and change history by ruling the world with his occultist society.Ho-hum, it’s up to Holmes, with the help of Dr. Watson and the untrustworthy Adler and the not too swift Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan), to stop the madman (which sounds to me like a Bond plot).


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”