Sherlock Holmes

Directors: Guy Ritchie

When you really think about it, it’s elementary that Robert Downey Jr. would make a great Sherlock Holmes.

In life and in art, he’s taken the path of the cerebral risk-taker. Given a chance to sample a new substance or portray an unusual character — he’s done everyone from Chaplin to Iron Man — he jumps in with both feet.

Those familiar with the Holmes canon know the 19th-century sage was quite a physical man (although maybe not the bare-chested brawler Downey portrays), who also liked to partake of festive pharmaceuticals. We can live without the deerstalker cap, as Downey does.

Also cheering is the choice of Jude Law as Dr. Watson, Holmes’ sidekick, who retains the discipline and the loyalty of his literary counterpart.

But skullduggery is afoot in other areas. Regrettably, director Guy Ritchie and his screenwriting committee (bad sign, that) have completely lost the plot beyond their golden pairing of Downey and Law. It’s as if they simply downed tools, having satisfied themselves with excellent leads.

A great hero needs a great villain, and there isn’t one to be found in Mark Strong’s Lord Blackwood, a satanic troublemaker in greasy London town who is more bureaucrat than Beelzebub. He’s among the most tedious and least-threatening baddie to darken a screen in many a moon.

Also firing on zero cylinders is Canada’s own Rachel McAdams, as Holmes’ putative love interest Irene Adler. It’s possible that some earlier version of the script actually gave her something to do, but little of this made the final cut.

Then there’s the story, which is entirely titled towards an intended sequel and extended franchise.

The picture is top-heavy with cheap CGI, with things forever vanishing, being shot into the air or simply exploding along with Hans Zimmer’s ponderous score, none of it terribly dazzling.

Still, it’s good enough to just sit back and enjoy Downey and Law plays Holmes and Watson as Victorian versions of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Extras vary according to edition, but the Blu-ray offers the greatest bounty for Holmesphiles, with various making-off featurettes. Of greatest interest and novelty is the Maximum Movie Mode commentary in which Ritchie literally walks us through the film.