The Guardian Newspaper were left underwhelmed:
It is, as the great sleuth might have said, a three-pipe problem. How does cackling Ritchie keep getting away with it? How on earth did he manage to perpetrate those two egregious crimes Revolver and RocknRolla without getting his collar felt?
This lordly super-villain is well known as a master of disguise, donning a pearly cap and smearing himself with odorous jellied eels to pass as a cockney rapscallion, in which garb this patrician scofflaw carries out his dastardly acts in film studios, before changing back into tweeds and vanishing away to his country estate.
Now he has managed to steal hours of precious time belonging to cinemagoers everywhere for his latest silly escapade. It's a souped-up Victorian romp with Holmes and Watson reinvented as wisecracking action heroes, a two-man league of pretty ordinary gentlemen.
As ever, Ritchie has some bareknuckle fighting in slow-motion interspersed with very-quick-speeded-up-motion and there's plenty of diddly-diddly Irish folk music in the background. I fear producer Joel Silver may feel like grabbing Ritchie and plunging with him down the Reichenbach Falls.UNDERWIRE.COM found much to enjoy in the movie:
London is in an uproar as the ritual killings resume. Enter mystery woman Irene Adler, portrayed by saucer-eyed Rachel McAdams, who has her own agenda as she alternately teases and torments her old rival Holmes. Meanwhile, Holmes’ constant companion Dr. John Watson (played by Jude Law) becomes increasingly cranky in his role as faithful assistant, due in part to the distractions offered by fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly).
This Sherlock Holmes turns as much on the frayed friendship between crime fiction’s most durable odd couple as it does on Lord Blackwood’s evil conspiracy. Writers Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg (who penned Mr. & Mrs. Smith) invest Holmes and Watson’s bickering exchanges with a brittle tension that hints at a vulnerable heart beating beneath Holmes’ ever-commanding persona.
Sherlock Holmes is Ritchie’s first big Hollywood movie, and he’s taken full advantage of the budget to hire first-rate collaborators. Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (A River Runs Through It) evokes turn-of-the-century London with stunning exterior shots. Costume designer Jenny Beavan (A Room With a View) dresses Downey in sensationally cool outfits that ignore the deerstalking-cap-and-cape iconography in favor of dapper cravats and fedoras. Production designer Sarah Greenwood (Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) finesses the period details.
Amid all this Masterpiece Theater finery, some action sequences feel a tad cartoony — can a woman really fall 40 feet, appear limp, then perk up, without a scratch, only to fire off a completely coherent witticism? And Sherlock Holmes fans accustomed to genteel crime scenes may wince at the sight of a young woman spread-eagled on a ritual murder table three minutes into the film.
But this umpteenth on-screen incarnation of Sherlock Holmes remakes the template in promising fashion. Armed with an impeccably crisp British accent, Downey presents Holmes as a neurotic, slightly batty, genius crime-solver well-suited for 21st century audiences. Case closed.
Me, I'll wait for the DVD