2009 // USA // Guy Ritchie // July 11, 2010 // Blu-ray - Warner Brothers (2010)
C+ - Guy Ritchie purges the Victorian starch (and elegance) from Doyle's sleuth, while preserving Holmes' spooky powers of deduction and highlighting forgotten character details, such as the Great Detective's talent for bare-knuckle boxing and his penchant for narcotics. Purists will doubtlessly blanch at the director's approach, which paints Holmes as a superhero for a steampunk-tinged nineteenth century London. However, Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal possesses sufficient odd-duck touches to render this Sherlock a credible (if multiplex-friendly) variation on the iconic character. Witty and rollicking, the film focuses on a Holmesian mainstay—banal evil dressed up in mystical garb—and generally succeeds, despite a story stuffed with baffling plot holes. The gaggle of writers (surprise!) are too eager to sacrifice consistency for the sake of action, and leave far too much unexplained, despite a coda where Holmes sweeps away a plethora of seemingly supernatural events with his vaunted reason. Still, there's plenty of glint to admire on this bauble, whether in Ritchie's flamboyant style, Hans Zimmer's lively score (his most flat-out stimulating in years), or the consistently rich art direction, which relies heavily on conspicuous computer effects, but still manages to delight. Sherlock Holmes suggests that anachronistic Victorian adventure can be guilty good fun, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen be damned.