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Sherlock Holmes

That this is not going to be your father’s or grand-father’s Sherlock Holmes is clear in the opening seconds of this film, even if you have your eyes closed: The deafening music and clattering sound effects as we join the great detective and his aide Dr. Watson in the middle of a chase erase doubt where none probably existed in the first place. This is not Holmes moved into the modern era, a tactic that has been tried and failed a few times, but rather Holmes in a steampunk Victorian setting approached with the best CGI effects the boys in the computer lab are currently capable of providing, a la The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It may not be the majority opinion among Baker Street Irregulars, but I don’t see anything wrong in toying with Holmes a bit. He’s been around so long and in so many adaptations as to be impervious to any lasting harm. And Guy Ritchie, student of London history and master of tough-guy dialogue, was a reasonable enough choice to direct. Unfortunately, the film bears less of Ritchie’s stamp than of louderharderfaster producer Joel Silver. The script tries to do so many different things with Holmes—casting the young (by comparison) Robert Downey Jr. and losing his trademark deerstalker hat while amping up his physical abilities as well as his neuroses, winking at his relationship with Watson while intimating a sexual obsession with Irene Adler, etc.—that the germ of the character is all but lost. Only his powers of deduction remain, and even these are shunted aside for a post-climactic coda rather than worked into the story. Downey is always fun to watch, but his underplaying gets lost in the din, while Jude Law makes for an anonymous Watson. And you can’t help but wish that a few explosions had been jettisoned in order to give a bit more time to Mark Strong as the villainous Lord Blackwood and Eddie Marsan as Inspector LeStrade. As junky holiday entertainment it moves quickly enough, but its closer to Thomas Harris or Dan Brown than to Arthur Conan Doyle.

m. faust

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