No mystery: 'Sherlock Holmes' a smash

Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:50pm EST
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By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In this corner is Guy Ritchie, master of visual con-game action movies that tend toward all-style-no-substance.

In that corner is Sherlock Holmes, the cerebral master sleuth who solves crimes with quiet deduction, intense concentration and a seven-percent solution.

It's no contest: The winner is Ritchie in a pyrotechnical knockout.

"Sherlock Holmes" goes wrong in many ways except for one -- commercial appeal. Credit producer Joel Silver for recognizing that the only way to revive Sherlock Holmes for contemporary audiences is by turning him into Jason Bourne and hiring someone like Ritchie to overload the senses with chases, fights, effects, editing, bombastic noise and music. Warner Bros. opens "(Not) Sherlock Holmes" on December 25.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law certainly don't fit previous castings as Holmes and Watson, respectively. That's fine, but they're a little too much alike. Both are glib, smart, good-looking guys and fine actors of about the same age and build. If Downey would hand his pipe to Law, they could switch roles from scene to scene.

The two banter a lot with faux hostility, which adds little to what the film takes for wit and subtracts a good deal from whatever suspense the action is meant to generate. If the protagonists crack wise, what danger can they possibly be in?

Each is given a love interest of sorts: Kelly Reilly as Watson's fiancee, who doesn't much care for his pal, and Rachel McAdams as "the only woman ever to have bested Holmes." All of which might have been interesting if the women didn't disappear for chunks of the movie.

The plot? Wish you hadn't asked. One is not meant to completely understand it, of course; you never do in a Ritchie movie. McAdams' Irene Adler drops by Baker Street when Holmes is in one of his stir-crazy fits -- this happens whenever he's between cases. She pays him to find a missing midget.   Continued...

<p>British director Guy Ritchie arrives for the world premiere of "Sherlock Holmes" in Leicester Square in London December 14, 2009. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett</p>