By Tyler Hanley
Three and a half stars
Rated PG-13 for violence and action, startling images and a scene of suggestive material
2 hours, 14 minutes
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary sleuth gets a cinematic adrenaline shot for this wildly entertaining and action-packed mystery. British director Guy Ritchie ("Snatch") makes a welcome return to quality filmmaking after several flops, revitalizing Holmes and his steadfast sidekick Dr. Watson for a new generation of filmgoers.
Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is the private investigator du jour in turn-of-the-century England. The often eccentric but always brilliant Holmes works alongside his colleague Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) to solve unsolvable crimes. Case in point: Convicted killer Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) seems to have cheated death through the use of dark magic, and his unexplainable powers have forced the populace into a frenzied panic.
Blackwood isn't Holmes' only concern. Holmes' old flame and former adversary Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) resurfaces with a request to find a missing man. As Holmes desperately tries to stave off his feelings for Adler, he begins to realize the two cases are linked. Furthermore, Watson's forthcoming nuptials may spell the end of his partnership with Holmes.
And a mysterious, manipulative professor lurks in the shadows.
As a longtime fan of Doyle's tales, I'll admit I was initially skeptical about this action-oriented rendition. Sherlock Holmes is my favorite literary character and I worried that he would suffer in the hands of an American actor and an inconsistent director. But my fears were quashed in the first five minutes. Downey Jr. is exceptional as the iconic detective and Law comfortably fills the shoes of Dr. Watson. The two make a perfect pair, rivaling some of the best big-screen buddies of the past two decades.
This Holmes is an adept fighter, skills Doyle only alluded to in print. Holmes' unparalleled deductive-reasoning abilities and knowledge of human anatomy enable him to anticipate punches and quickly neutralize attackers. The on-screen combat -- a proven strength of Ritchie's -- is a welcome addition and helps energize and accelerate the story. Ritchie and company are careful not to stray too much from Doyle's original vision, perfectly depicting Holmes' observation and deductive-reasoning prowess and ensuring that his familiar pipe is never out of reach.
The music by Oscar magnet Hans Zimmer is tremendous. The only slippery slope for "Sherlock" is that it feels somewhat akin to a superhero flick. The plot is a little generic and although Strong makes a good villain, his Lord Blackwood is too one-dimensional.
Clues sprinkled throughout the film lead to an exciting climax — "Sherlock" is well worth investigating.