Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes is the kind of film you make if you delve too deeply into the sub text of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and extrapolate on what you find there.
If Doyle implied that Holmes only ever had one woman in his life, you turn his admiration for adventuress Irene Adler into a full blown love affair and have her leave him drugged, handcuffed and naked in her bed to be discovered by a shocked chamber maid. If it is suggested that Holmes and Watson sometimes broke the law in minor ways in the name of justice, in this film you have them arrested and thrown in gaol, after demolishing an entire dry dock in a spectacular fight with a seven foot tall thug. If in the stories, it is implied that Watson’s close relationship with Holmes threatens his marriage to Mary Morstan, in the film you have Mary throw a drink in Holmes face, when he uses his powers of deduction on her. If Doyle suggests that Holmes was careless with his appearance every time he was not working and got depressed, in the film you direct Robert Downey Jr to walk through the entire film unkempt and unshaven. These are just some of the ways Richie tries to make his version of Holmes different from all the others.
Added to this is the same jokey tone, Richie used in his modern day crime films,Lock Stock and two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Richie could be remaking these films except this is set in Victorian England. Fight scenes are choreographed to jaunty Irish violin music, and Holmes engages in constant witty banter with Watson, with Irene Adler, with Inspector Lestrade, with a Thames boat captain, and twice in French with the aforementioned seven foot tall thug, who is simultaneously trying to kill him. This jokey tone undermines any suspense to be found in the film's extravagant Gothic plot, which involves a sinister Lord Blackwood, pretending he has risen from the dead, prepared to use his supposed satanic powers to kill all MPS, and to seize control of the British Empire and the world. Rather than at the Reichenbach Falls, Holmes and Blackwood fight to the death on top of the newly constructed Tower Bridge over the Thames, and Blackwood dies a spectacularly grisly death, more in keeping with the Bond films, than Doyle’s stories.No one has ever praised Bond for his intelligence or his superior powers of observation, and Holmes may have been a super hero in some respects, but on a different level to Bond. Could Bond's Ernst Stavro Blofeld be a modern day reincarnation of Blackwood?
Though a fine actor Robert Downey Jr fails to convince me as Holmes, as I cannot see him as having a superior intellect, but the chemistry between him and Jude Law’s Watson works well. The film has its moments, but is considerably overdone in parts (see above), and its mix of styles does not quite jell for me. Besides Holmes and Watson have been better used as action heroes before in films such as The Seven Percent Solution, from Nicholas Meyer's witty novel, made in late 70s. The repeated mention of the name Moriarty at the end of the film, in connection with one of the loose ends of the plot, suggests that a sequel is already in the works. Should a new series eventuate, it could be optimistic to suggest that the new films turn out better than the trashy Rathbone series of the forties.