They discover an aristocrat, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), in the middle of a ritualistic murder of a young woman. In this early scene, Ritchie’s Holmes reveals himself as a physical titan in a witty interlude in which we witness in slow motion the microscopic details of his plan to incapacitate an assailant by brute force. The villain hangs, but, for Holmes and Watson, this is just the start of a series of fights, rescues, escapes and revelations, all cloaked in creaky supernatural mumbo jumbo.
Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is effective as a caricatured comedy adventure and shows some fidelity to Arthur Conan Doyle, especially in Downey Jr’s portrayal of the eccentric but cold-hearted Holmes. The banter between Holmes and Watson isn’t as witty as it should be, but the detective’s lone mutterings, especially his deductions, are fun. The film’s biggest success is its evocation of Victorian London, via much location work and CG rendering: here, Ritchie’s grittily romantic view of our city comes into its own, culminating in a delicious climax on the girders of a half-built Tower Bridge.