by Terry Hunter
The new Sherlock Holmes movie transforms the elegant detective into an action hero. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the original character, must be turning over in his grave. But (and this is a huge "but") the talented Robert Downy Jr. delivers an inspired performance that is nearly impossible to resist.
During one of my favorite scenes in "Sherlock Holmes," Downey plays the detective as a bare knuckles boxer who explains in voice over and slow motion just how he'll defeat his opponent. Then we see him carry out those actions at normal speed. It's a highly satisfying bit of filmmaking.
Though Sherlock, the detective, does retain his amazing deductive powers, he is definitely not the refined gentleman your grandparents knew. And for that matter, Jude Law doesn't play Watson like the docile friend and physician he is in the stories. Sitting in their rooms at 221 B Baker Street, Holmes is toying with an electric cattle prod. "Get that out of my face," Watson tells him. "It's in my hand," Holmes replies. "Then get what's in your hand out of my face," Watson retorts. Throughout this version of Sherlock Holmes, the two partners banter constantly, reminding me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Does anyone doubt there will be a sequel?
The film has an excellent bad guy as well. The menacing villain played Mark Strong is more monster than criminal. "I fear you underestimate the gravity of coming events," he tells Holmes.
The plot about the villain's plan to conquer the world is too complicated to follow in detail, and most of the film's action scenes are manic-- but these flaws don't spoil the entertainment. Of course, the good guys triumph, no matter how dire the threats against them. But who needs jeopardy when your script is witty, and you've got a gifted actor like Robert Downy Jr. to play Sherlock?
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