Sherlock Holmes: the game is (kind of) afoot

Jude Law & Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes
{Sherlock Holmes opened in Seattle on Christmas Day, December 25th, and is playing at The Majestic Bay, The Metro, and The Meridian}

The stage is set for us at the beginning of Sherlock Holmes with a harried chase through the streets of London to the lair of principal villain Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), wherein his 6th virgin slaughtering is about to take place in the name of the dark arts. Luckily, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) & Watson (Jude Law) save the day with deduction—and some kick-ass martial arts moves.

After Blackwood’s capture, he’s sentenced to hang, rising from the dead shortly after. A secret society then recruits Holmes to solve the crime and help stop Blackwood before his powers can be used to destroy England, which of course he accepts – not for the money, for the challenge of solving the crime. In addition to the supernatural, Holmes also has to fight depression, brought on by a newly-engaged Watson moving out of their shared flat and retiring from their capers, which he handles by getting drunk and making disparaging remarks to Watson’s fiancé.

Sadly, despite lots of big action scenes, beautiful sets, and Downey hamming it up with one-liners, there’s something about this film that just doesn’t add up. One thing that falls short is Director Guy Ritchie’s signature slow-motion fight scenes: he uses them as a means to show you how Holmes thinks, adding voice-over narration about his plans before they happen, then speeding up the camera to real time directly after to show the outcome. It’s meant to prepare for you the big payoff, but ends up feeling disjointed and out of place since these scenes are packed too closely together at the beginning and then totally abandoned.

There are some things that do work – plenty of suspenseful chase scenes, and (duh) if you like Robert Downey Jr., there’s a good chance you’ll like this just for him. He plays Holmes with his usual cocky, witty handsomeness (including an extended boxing sequence sans shirt – the better to show you his 6 pack with). Rachel McAdams adds some good tension as a flirty thief of all trades and Holmes’ ex – and I was impressed by the chemistry between Downy & Law (even if I thought that in most scenes, they may as well be winking at the camera). I’d love to see these two together again, which, if the wide-open-for-a-sequel ending is any indication of, I will.

Long story short (too late), those hoping for another Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are going to end up feeling a bit disappointed. It’s mostly forgettable. I’ll counter that by saying that it is also easily digestible, action-y fluff, so it’s not a bad choice for a Christmas Day film – just don’t expect to blown away by it.