(Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, et al / PG-13 / 2 hrs 14 mins / Warner Bros.)
Overview: In a dynamic new portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson embark on their latest challenge.
Verdict: Sherlock Holmes has been reimagined with fighting skills as potent as his intellectual acumen. The iconic British detective has undergone a makeover in the latest Sherlock Holmes, with little resemblance to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary character. Only his pipe-smoking remains intact.
Holmes as a lethal action hero would seem a natural assignment for a director such as Guy Ritchie (Snatch). And having proven himself a savvy superhero in Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. would seem a wise choice for a character boasting equal parts brawn and brains.
Holmes is an even more slovenly shut-in than he was on the page. His grooming doesn't involve plaid coats or rakish caps. It also doesn't seem to include a razor. But he's an inventor and a guy who definitely pumps iron, in the dark confines of his rented rooms on Baker Street.
As for Dr. Watson (Jude Law), he's no longer a bumbler. He's a marksman, a risk-taker and a romantic gent with a fiance (Kelly Reilly). But Watson's more substantive relationship is with Holmes. Though the production design looks entrancingly authentic, neither Holmes, Watson nor others sound like they live in the 1890s. Worse, the plot is convoluted.
Holmes is on the trail of the lofty Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), whose dastardly deeds involve occult crimes and threaten the future of London. The detective is both hampered and assisted by Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). There is more chemistry between Downey and Law than between Downey and McAdams. But there is not much point to her role except to show that woman can be action heroes, even in corsets and skirts.
Old London, achieved via superb visual effects, is breathtaking in its grimy verisimilitude. And Downey is charming. But his world is jarringly frenetic, in the manner of most Ritchie films. Ritchie's device of playing back the process of Holmes' deductive reasoning is at first intriguing, then becomes intrusive.