As overemphatic as one might expect from the ham-fisted Guy Ritchie, this resurrection of the world's most famous detective is a dank, noisy affair that unfolds in a gloomy London that seems like a bootleg copy of A Christmas Carol's CGI set. Arthur Conan Doyle's detective was, in essence, a master of the 19th-century scientific method who used empirical observation and logical deduction to make sense of a chaotic universe; it's inevitable that his 21st-century avatar would be a buff superhero. In addition to being the smartest man on Earth, the new Holmes is a master of barehanded fisticuffs—using strategies derived from lightning physical calculations. As played by Robert Downey Jr. with gloomy insouciance, Holmes is also something of a hipster. He wears shades and, rather than the traditional deerstalker hat, favors a porkpie job with the brim turned up. Hollywood logic has further dictated that the movie be a bit of a buddy film, even a love story. Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is a good-looking bloke whose impending marriage drives Sherlock half-mad with jealousy. The wartime Holmes and Watson battled the Axis, as well as the Spider Woman. A few near-subliminal references to terrorism notwithstanding, there's little attempt to make super-Holmes topical. The real mystery here is Downey. Whatever his personal demons, this actor seems immune from self-contempt. At least on the screen, he brings a wry conviction to even the most hackneyed role.
Bromantics Law (left) and Downey.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Dec. 25. Rated PG-13. 125 minutes.