Despite a frantic plot and the oozing charisma of star Robert Downey, Jr., “Sherlock Holmes” feels curiously flat. I’m going to chalk this up to director Guy Ritchie, because most of his movies before this one have been terrible stinkers. (Ever see “RocknRolla,” or “Revolver?” Good. Don’t.) I’m not really sure what’s wrong with the way Ritchie has directed “Sherlock Holmes,” but it’s an old film adage that if the thing doesn’t work, it’s the director’s fault. So we’ll blame Ritchie.
Though it might be Downey, Jr’s fault. His Holmes is basically an English, Victorian version of Tony Stark: too brilliant to be bothered with things like manners or morals, too effective for his friends(and enemies) to let him go off the deep end completely. And yet Downey Jr’s charisma is what keeps this thing watchable, and really isn’t it Ritchie’s fault for casting him in a role so like a role he just played? Range isn’t Downey Jr’s problem. (See: Tropic Thunder.)
The plot involves black magic, and secret societies, and gassing Parliament, and whatever. There are plenty of explosions, chases, big guys with hammers, and a final CGI-rich scene on a bridge. None of it feels too compelling. All of it feels like a way to keep a movie going that really ought to stop and question its own right to exist. “Sherlock Holmes” is a shark in the water: stop moving, and it will die.
In the end, I’d rather spend two hours watching “House.”