We gave it a B-
STARRING Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
WRITTEN BY Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg
DIRECTED BY Guy Ritchie
According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Sherlock Holmes is the most frequently portrayed character in film history — at least 75 actors have played Arthur Conan Doyle’s mythic detective. Figuring out how to give a fresh spin to such a well-worn literary icon, then, was no easy feat. In this case, Robert Downey Jr. says, ”it was a British-American Allied invasion, going back to the lexicon of the original stories and pumping life into this character.” Director Guy Ritchie (RocknRolla) initially considered rebooting the Holmes franchise with an origin story that would center on a much younger hero, but Downey persuaded him to scrap that approach. ”We sort of to-and-fro’ed with that idea,” Ritchie says, ”but Robert’s enthusiasm for the character allowed me to home in on the identity we’ve ended up with.” The result is a contemporary twist on the Victorian crime-fighter that amps up the action to levels befitting a big-budget studio production, as Holmes employs both his martial-arts skills and his famously deductive mind to foil the sinister Lord Blackwood (Body of Lies‘ Mark Strong), an occultist who claims to have black-magic powers.
Baker Street purists may be put off by Holmes’ Hollywood makeover, the filmmakers concede. ”But there’s a whole generation of people who don’t want Holmes in a deerstalker hat, doing the old-fashioned thing,” says Strong. ”We’ve been there and done that. Shakespeare gets reinvented. So why not Sherlock Holmes?” When you put it that way, a revamped, kung-fu-fighting Holmes sounds almost elementary.