It’s too bad the Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr. was a failure, at times embarrassing, because Downey, who plays an obsessive, crazed version of Holmes, does a great job: The film’s best parts are watching Downey absorb his environment so that by identifying the color of red dirt on your trousers he knows which part of town you’ve been traipsing in. Jude Law does a strong job as Holmes’ sidekick, Watson.
But the film is an egregious failure for three reasons. One, it’s too long and should have been edited down by at least twenty minutes. Two, there is a conflict of tone: Gothic vs. cartoonish. The film’s darkness is contradicted by Downey evading his adversaries like Bugs Bunny or Roadrunner. Had the film gone for pure darkness, it probably would have been more effective.
Another colossal failure in the film was its main villain, the satanic Lord Blackwood played adequately by Mark Strong. The Blackwood role is neither developed or scary. Without a compelling evil force and without a consistent gothic tone, the film feels at times ridiculous and ultimately the viewer becomes, in spite of Downey’s immense talents, disengaged, bored, and disappointed that such a great talent as director Guy Ritchie’s has been squandered.