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March 30, 2023

New “Sherlock Holmes” flick opens on January 1

The world’s most famous fictional detective returns to the big screen in Guy Ritchie’s adrenalized latest. The film recently brought Robert Downey Jr. a Golden Globe nomination.

The critics who have already seen it say this adrenalized Sherlock Holmes lacks the intelligence of its brilliant titular hero. Robert Downey Jr. lends his not-inconsiderable wit to the proceedings as the brawny, brooding Holmes, but despite director Guy Ritchie’s robust re-imagining, this picture struggles to transplant the 19th-century sleuth into the world of 21st-century Hollywood blockbusters.

Here, Robert Downey Jr. draws on his wild-eyed side to play the detective, while Jude Law assumes the more sober clothes of his sidekick, Dr Watson. We watch them as they confront a conspiracy of national proportions, against Lord Blackwood (played with subtlety by Ritchie regular Mark Strong), a villain reminding everyone of both Aleister Crowley and Count Dracula. Having opted to make an adventure movie rather than an investigation case Ritchie and his writers are savvy enough to begin at the end of the previous unit of action, with Holmes heroically solving a mystery and revealing the identity of a ritualistic serial killer, thereby setting up the plot proper in the grand and classic Holmesian style. Blackwood is an occultist dedicated to taking over a quasi-Masonic secret society and using it as a springboard for establishing a fascist regime in Britain. Holmes is of course bent on stopping him.

Along the way, the two men have alternately harrowing and droll run-ins with several of Conan Doyle’s more memorable creations, including Professor Moriarty (a faceless and shadowy figure here, likely because he will be played in the next film by an actor yet to be cast), Inspector Lestrade and Irene Adler, the sympathetic American villainess of the very first Holmes short story and one of the only adversaries ever to outsmart him. Adler, a wronged woman seeking justice in Conan Doyle, has been re-invented as a dangerous adventuress, and Holmes’ ambivalent fascination with her in the books is recast here.

It’s the Holmes and Watson rapport that defines this movie though, just as it did the Conan Doyle stories, and reinvented though the characters are their relationship works beautifully.

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