The devil’s in the details for ‘Holmes’

Dominic Baez – Editor-in-chief

“First point of attack, right ear. Two, throat, to muffle his scream. Three, cracked ribs. Four, sweep under right knee. In summary: neutralized. Chance of recovery: small.”

When you can calculate how to incapacitate a bodyguard through a series of intricately precise details (in advance no less), your wit might rank up there with Mr. Sherlock Holmes’.

“Sherlock Holmes,” Guy Ritchie’s newest film, takes a new twist on Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation. While Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has never been much for physical violence in the past, Ritchie (director of “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch” and “RocknRolla”) has done what he does best: merge violence, coolness and a little bit of sex.

Set in 19th-century London, with the infamous 221b Baker St. residence as headquarters, “Holmes” begins at a blisteringly quick pace, prepping the stage for what becomes a rock-’em, sock-’em ordeal. Chase scenes and full-on, knock-down, drag-out fights ensue, which serve as blessings in disguise, as they help alleviate the less-than-award-winning script writing.

The production design, however, is stunning (even if it is digital). London is the boiler room of the Industrial Revolution. Tower Bridge is still under construction. You can clearly see the Thames is the city’s main thoroughfare. The “Old Smoke” hasn’t looked this exciting for 100 years.

A hint of magic and spirituality lingers over the film, as an evil aristocrat, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who was executed for a series of occult-style murders, returns from the dead to marshal an ancient secret society. Holmes, along with his faithful companion and chronicler, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), sleuth their way into London’s seedy underbelly to solve the mystery behind Blackwood’s resurrection.

Serving as the go-to girl, Rachel McAdams suffices as Irene Adler, Holmes’ favorite femme fatale, but the screenwriters (all four of them) didn’t seem to know quite what to do with her character, and it shows from time to time.

The plot, though sporadic, exemplifies classic Holmes mentality: Always be aware of your surroundings, and it’s normally the smallest detail that means the most (although a well-placed kick to the solar plexus can’t hurt your chances, either).

But you can bet there will be a sequel, and it looks as if it might feature Holmes’s literary arch nemesis, Professor Moriarty. But at this rate, Holmes is more likely to sucker punch him in the face than use his wit to solve the mystery.

Rated: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material)
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes
Photo courtesy: Warner Bros. Studio

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