f you think the current Sherlock Holmes movie presents merely an updated version of Basil Rathbone’s arrogant, cerebral puzzle solver, you’re going to be in for a big shock. The new master sleuth is just as brilliant as all his previous cinematic incarnations, but now, as embodied by Robert Downey Jr., Holmes is a self-centered, absent-minded, slobby rascal who also happens to be an unrepentant pugilist and a pushover for a lady in scarlet. His pal and current housemate at 221 Baker Street, Dr. Watson, is no longer a chubby, bumbling sidekick. Jude Law turns Watson into an equal match for Holmes, sexy, articulate, brave and romantic. In British director Guy Ritchie’s (RocknRolla) enthusiastic rendition of the timeless buddy story, Dr. Watson is just as likely to punch Holmes in the nose as he is to follow him down the murky streets of Victorian London.
Holmes and Watson have been living together, more or less amicably, for quite a while, bickering and jousting with one another but basically being good pals. And then Dr. Watson goes and ruins everything for Holmes by falling in love and wanting to get married. Holmes is beside himself with separation anxiety. Who will go to the opera with him? Loan him money? Tolerate his smelly chemistry experiments? Locate the missing bow to his violin? More important, who will tag along with him as he solves the country’s most nefarious crimes? Holmes works off his frustrations in the boxing ring, proving that even a snobby gentleman like himself can throw a few mean punches when he’s got a mind to it.
Never fear, there’s always some time in movies between getting engaged and actually tying the knot, so Holmes has a least a few days to drag Watson into his latest adventure. It’s a doozy. A while back snaggle-toothed nobleman Lord Blackman (Mark Strong) had been murdering virgins as part of a mystical plot to lead his secret society to world domination, including the takeover of Britain’s parliament. The society was a hybrid between malignant Masonry and a perverted Golden Dawn, meaning no sense whatsoever, but lots of conservative rich men convinced their nasty deeds make them worthy of telling everybody else what to do. Holmes and Watson had led Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsen) and his policemen into the killing room just in time to arrest Lord Blackwood and save the hapless virgin. When Blackwood is hanged for his crimes, Dr. Watson is there to attest that the evil lord is no longer breathing.
Alas, a few days later, much to the horror of a witnessing gravedigger, Lord Blackwood rises from the dead, leaving another body in his casket. Terror sweeps the city. Everyone’s baffled, including Mr. Holmes, who mistrusts spiritual explanations of weird happenings. He is also overjoyed to be back on a case, especially one that involves someone as rotten and intelligent as Lord Blackwood. Of course, against his better judgment, Dr. Watson allows himself to get pulled into the mischief.
Meanwhile Holmes is sorely distracted by a certain Miss Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the only woman who ever stole his heart. Miss Adler is brilliant, flirty, and heartless and she sashays magnificently with a bright scarlet bustle wagging like a bunny rabbit tail behind her. Who is Miss Adler working for? And why did she leave Holmes strapped to the bedposts with only an embroidered pillow covering his privates?
The closer Holmes gets to the truth about Lord Blackwood’s resurrection, the more bodies turn up and the more devious are the twists and turns that Miss Adler makes him follow. Is it possible that the mesmerizing but greedy Miss Adler is entangled with the horrible Lord Blackwood?
Holmes and Watson are both going to be lucky to find out without losing their lives in some terrifying, disgusting way. Director Ritchie seems to have been inspired by Indiana Jones and crept through the underbelly of Industrial Revolution England to come up with the most technically gruesome ways to threaten our heroes. Never have the shipyards, abattoirs and tenements of London been the setting for so much potential blood loss, unless, that is, it was Ritchie’s latest film, RochnRolla, the violent and wickedly satiric look at contemporary British crime lords.
Holmes finds himself on one mad chase after another, diving into the Thames, jumping from explosions, dangling for dear life on skyscraper steel beams, wriggling away from pig-tearing buzz saws. Throughout all the mayhem, he and Watson are playing bad-boy with one another. It’s over the top action-packed, hilarious, and total fun. If you’re in the mood for riveting mindless escape, breathtaking stunts, captivating performances, incredible settings and some teasing sexual fantasies, it’s elementary that you’ll enjoy Sherlock Holmes.
I can’t wait for the sequel, when I’m sure Professor Moriarity, who got some none too subtle foreshadowing in this film, will make his long awaited entrance.