A new look at the Baker Street legend

Sunny Tse
Sunny Tse |

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Robert Downey Jr (right) plays Sherlock Holmes, supported by Jude Law as the detective's doctor-friend.

In Guy Ritchie's Christmas treat, ace detective Sherlock Holmes uses brains and brawn to bring down the villain

By Sunny Tse

In four novels and 56 short stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the fictional detective hero Sherlock Holmes who, with his remarkable intelligence and eccentric style, solved the toughest cases imaginable and is still fascinating generations of readers.

In his Christmas treat Sherlock Holmes, British director Guy Ritchie gives moviegoers a new, yet faithful look at the Baker Street legend.

Set in the 1890s, the film opens with a string of brutal, ritualistic murders. The celebrated "consulting detective" Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his doctor-friend John Watson (Jude Law) arrive just in time to stop the latest murder and catch the culprit, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who is sentenced to die by hanging. But the true threat arises when the cult leader miraculously comes back to life, untouched and stronger, after his apparent death.

His 'resurrection' terrorises the people of London and earns him a group of loyal followers who are fascinated by his supernatural powers. In the world of dark arts and startling new technologies, Holmes, however, remains faithful to his belief in logic and is determined to take the villain down by his exceptional detective skills and, sometimes, the blunt force of his fists. Amid the suspense, more about Holmes' personal life is revealed, with the attractive and possibly dangerous Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) being the only woman who impresses the genius. Also, this could be the last time Holmes and Watson are working together before the doctor starts a new life as a married man.

Unlike the well-polished professional in previous Holmes movies, Ritchie presents a raw, gritty, streetwise detective, offering a more contemporary and dynamic version of the famed sleuth.

Iron-Man star Downey revels in another superhero-like role. Playing the wayward, pipe-loving detective, he displays a flawless English accent and fighting skills that will delight his fans. "[Holmes] was probably the first superhero, an intellectual superhero," says Downey. "He has a strong moral code in helping good guys catch bad guys, so he has dedicated his life to being a consulting detective. He doesn't do it to show everyone how smart he is. He's actually a crusader."

There is also a different interpretation of Watson. He is no longer the bumbling fool against Holmes' great, lofty genius.

Another highlight of the movie is the exhilarating action sequences. Holmes' distinct fighting style is a combination of jujitsu and Wing Chun, created by martial art lovers Ritchie and Downey.