Complete A-Z list

Sherlock Holmes


Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, Hans Matheson, James Fox

Director: Guy Ritchie

Probably the only way to present the classic sleuth Sherlock Holmes to a modern audience is through a blockbuster action film. Even so, Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Smokin' Holmes does retain some of the flavour of Conan Doyle's original.

The oddity lies in the casting. Downey Jr is a thoroughly disreputable (and rarely shaven) Holmes, and no one's idea of a lean, tall aesthete, even though his droll English accent is fine, apart from his inability to say 'new' or 'knew', both of which come out as 'noo'.

Law plays Watson as a sort of estuary dandy, bowler tipped jauntily on one side. Though he looks more likely to offer you a used coach and horses (one careful owner) than an injection against the pox, and it's hard to take him seriously as a doctor, he does make a lithe and convincing sidekick to Holmes in the action stakes.

Meanwhile, Strong's bad Lord Blackwood comes across as an upmarket Vinnie Jones, while McAdams is winsomely devious as Holmes' female nemesis, Irene Adler. The best casting is Marsan as Inspector Lestrade - the perfect fusion of actor and part.

The plot has Blackwood, well into the occult, or so it seems, executed for sacrificing a series of nubile maidens, but seemingly rising from the dead, and plotting, well, what else but world domination?

Impressively detailed London and Thameside settings subsequently provide a backdrop for some blazing and firecely edited action. Moriarty, Holmes' arch-enemy, is here, too, but only as a shadowy presence, presumably back for a sequel. Yes, it's Holmes, Jim, but not quite as we've known him. It is, though, quite fun.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2009. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
128 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 19 Dec 2009