Good ‘ol Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a long existence as one of the most intelligent detectives who ever lived. Now, with a Hollywood makeover, he is also one of the scrappiest. Revealing fighting abilities that would leave even Bond a little shaken and stirred, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) presents himself in this telling as much more of an action hero. Joining him is his cohort Dr. Watson (Jude Law), who is more ninja than physician.
The great detective’s presence is requested by a strange bloke who’s imprisoned on death row by London’s finest for the multiple murders of various women. Yet, even behind bars Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) is managing to wreck havoc. So much so they have had to evacuate the other prisoners that allege he has taken control of their minds and caused a guard to go into medical distress. During Holmes’ short visit, Blackwood assures the sleuths that after his visit to the gallows, England will be threatened even more so by his wrath.
Holmes takes this rather supernatural statement seriously, and the game is afoot. He’s also not so love struck by a fetching acquaintance (Rachel McAdams) to overlook the possibility of her being a pawn within Blackwood’s plan. Unraveling a curiously convoluted plot involving metaphysical forces and technology (that you’d be hard pressed to purchase at a Victorian-era Radio Shack), the boy from Baker Street discovers all of England—if not the entire globe—is hanging on his ability to decipher the clues.
Unexpectedly delivering more action than logic, director Guy Ritchie has given Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters such a transformation that you wonder if the author himself would recognize his creation. Holmes’ ability to deduce and predict lands him more within the category of clairvoyant. Combined with undocumented fighting skills (perhaps with the hopes of keeping 21st Century film audiences amused), our hero can even slow down time and methodically consider every body part he should hammer in order to slay his opponent. The result is a one-two punch as we see the brutal hits in slo-mo and then in rapid release. Not to be outdone, Watson offers other skills to keep the duo from harm, and pistols are involved in some confrontations.
These violent encounters throughout the film will be the greatest issue for parents. Thankfully, profane language is nearly non-existent, with only one mild profanity noted. Sexual content is also relatively minimal. A woman drops her robe, but we only briefly see her back and shoulders; a man is seen naked on a bed with a pillow covering his private parts (check the movie’s trailer if you want to preview this) and a short reference is made about a person being conceived during a cult ceremony (it is vaguely implied that the mother may have been raped).
Cautiously suitable for older teens, this production will do little to fill the inexperienced in on the real Holmes. Sadly the modifications to this classic character’s persona, along with Robert Downey Jr.‘s rapid fire delivery and sometimes difficult to decipher accent, leave Sherlock Holmes missing some elementary ingredients.