Not so elementary: 'Sherlock Holmes' draws mixed reviews

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The Independent Culture

"Sherlock Holmes", the latest film incarnation of the quintessentially English detective, drew a mixed reaction from critics here Tuesday who variously described it as a roaring success and a hack job.

London hosted the world premiere late Monday of director Guy Ritchie's movie starring Robert Downey, Junior as Holmes and Jude Law as his sidekick Doctor Watson, though the excitement of the event was not quite matched by the newspaper reviews.

The Times praised the performances of the two main leads, saying Downey was "terrific" and praising Ritchie for drawing "a career-best performance from Law" - but said their double act failed to carry "an overlong film".

The Guardian was more blunt, saying Downey played Holmes "with boggle-eyed hamminess... a cartoon with darting eyes rather than a brain" and Law was just "blank" in this "high-end hack work".

It accused Ritchie of being in a "muddle" over what he was trying to achieve, saying he airbrushed out Holmes' drug use and failed in his attempt to update the lead characters' relationship and that of Watson and his fiancee.

Ritchie insisted he had a clear vision, telling a press conference Monday that he had been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective since childhood "so I had a really strong vision of who Sherlock Holmes should be".

Many reviewers loved the film, however, including The Sun's showbusiness correspondent who described it as a "roaring success".

Downey was "an exceptional Sherlock, who's a clinical bare-knuckle fighter, hell-raising drinker and charmer", he wrote, adding that Law was surprisingly convincing as a hardman.

The Daily Telegraph described it as "undeniably a rollicking romp, an all-action blockbuster" led by a youthful Holmes that resembles a young Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist.

"The pace rarely slackens throughout, the set pieces are explosive, the score relentlessly thunderous. Victorian London is recreated - relying on copious use of computer effects - with an eye for the grimy reality," it said.

The film's producer, Joel Silver, who also worked with Ritchie on his previous movie "RocknRolla", told reporters Monday that Holmes was a "man of action" and they wanted to have fun with the main characters.

"We invested ourselves in trying to make a contemporary movie that feels fresh and original but still embraces what Conan Doyle did. And I hope we succeeded," he said.

The film is released in the United States on December 25.