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Ten Word or Less Review: Rock’em sock’em Sherlock.  Smart detective gets dumb movie.

I’m not a Conan Doyle purist or militant about how the Holmes character is portrayed over time.  If Robert Downey Jr. wants to be a contrarian and turn the character on its head in some ways, more power to him.  The atypical Holmes of movies past has always been that of a refined gentleman scholar.  Well dressed, cleaned shaven, even tempered, funny hat, big pipe, all extensions of his unerring, perceptive intellect.  It’s a character ripe for stiff British thespians to revel in portraying similarly, over and over and over as they have for decades.  Downey’s Holmes is a refreshingly selfish slob.  A poorly kept, never shaved, mess of a human who needs his dear Watson to keep his days straight and bail him out when he needs bailing.  I have no issue with any of this.  I love seeing traditional icons reinvented and turned into something they’ve never been before.  Let the purist rankle and rave all they want.  Screw’m if they can’t take broaden their horizons just the tiniest bit.  I applaud Downey for playing Holmes as this frazzled, quirked up, jerk.  Director Guy Ritchie though deserves to be hit on the head with any blunt object of choice  for the movie overall.  Considering the way Ritchie directs things he’d probably like it.

This Ritchie steered “Sherlock Holmes” is a bludgeoning of action movie bullshit.  A lumbering, destructive fist plowing through as many heads as it can get its hands on.  The intellect of the Holmes character may still be intact, but the wits of those guiding this bore are entirely in question.  Ritchie was one step away from a directorial purgatory from which he was to never escape.  Why he was given reprieve to helm this big-budget stinker can only be because those higher in command wanted someone with no aspirations for the material or ability to achieve them if they did.  He’s someone to make it digestibly dull to those who might wrinkle their nose in apprehension at the idea of an intellect driven hero who thinks more than he hits.  Ritchie and his dim script are poisons on the movie that keep killing it over and over with course action scenes and silly slo-mo.  I can buy Holmes boxing, but plopping him in the middle of what feels like a fight club is genuinely stupid.  Ramping up the action isn’t a crime, but putting Holmes and Watson in one show stopping explosion after another is tedious.  Chasing the bad guy around for a finale isn’t necessarily creatively corrupt.  Making sure the chase senselessly ends on a high bridge tells me you’re just doing it to make people fall off the way they always fall off.   It’s all doubly sad because the cast is able and game.

Downey is clearly here to have well paid fun in between “Iron Man” movies.  The role is no stretch for him in any way, but he’s not bored or phoning it in.  He’s trying to have as much fun as he can in a role that only requires his tried and true snark.  Jude Law makes a very capable Watson who can stand toe to toe with the illustrious Holmes.  The part is a winner for Law who’s become a bit of movie poison himself over the years.  Less impressive is lovely Rachel McAdams, sadly wasted on what is little more than an action movie babe part.  Mark Strong is the routine baddie of the film, a dime a dozen nothing saddled with the same world conquering aspirations as so many other movie baddies.  Holmes lovers looking for the dreaded Moriarity only get the character in shadow, as a promise of sequels loom heavily over everything.

There’s likely more of this Holmes to come and if they want to take this thing anywhere worth going, they should eject Ritchie immediately.  With him behind the camera there’s little to no chance anything worth pursuing further will come out of this incarnation of Holmes.  I’m perfectly fine with a different kind of Sherlock Holmes.  But big, loud and dumb is not my first choice.

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