Written by Arthur Conan Doyle

Directed by Guy Ritchie

 Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law



Sherlock Holmes


When director Guy Ritchie burst upon the scene, with “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch,” his work had a freshness, even an ironic sense that most of us missed elsewhere.  But his new film “Sherlock Holmes,” even though it’s getting more box-office play than anything but “Avatar,” is a complete misconception of just what it is about Sherlock Holmes that’s kept him in everybody’s life for more than a century.  Holmes was endowed by Arthur Conan Doyle with an unearthly ability to ratiocinate, coupled with the ability to disguise himself so no one could identify him.  Yes, there would always be a moment for “Come, Watson, we must hurry...” but his appeal lay in his ability to solve murders by means of his mind.


Now, in the new “Sherlock Holmes,” Ritchie and his writers have made him into an action hero, and then paced the film so frantically that we have no time (or interest) in enjoying his ability to solve mysteries.  Robert Downey, Jr., can command almost any screen (Jude Law less so), but twisting Holmes around into another “Iron Man” does no one any good.  The film is frantic, and is paced with quick cuts that don’t enhance the story, and even keep us from enjoying any sense of a superman at work.   Let me assure you that in the right circumstances I love quick cuts – think of Paul Greengrass’s “Bourne Ultimatum” for a lesson in how to use them properly, editing them to give the film extraordinary power.


There is one wonderful piece of casting in “Sherlock Holmes,” though; it’s Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood, the villain.  He plans to hold England in the palm of his hand, first by escaping his own hanging, then by poisoning all the members of Parliament who oppose him, finally of course by killing Holmes and Watson.  But here again Ritchie and his writers have made the wrong choices.  Instead of following each of these things, one at a time, letting the suspense build, they withhold the revelation of how he did them all until the end of the film – when we no longer care.  Downey and Law are nothing but action figures, suitable for Game Boy and the inevitable sequels to the movie, but have no appropriate personalities, and simply confront one ticking time bomb after another.  Alfred Hitchcock said, “Planting a bomb and having it go off is excitement; planting a bomb and NOT having it go off is suspense.”  This film of “Sherlock Holmes” turns what should be suspense into barely credible action and loses the impact of both.