***Spoiler Alert: this review is pretty much one giant spoiler. The good news is, the film stinks, so you're not going to miss much.****
There really needs to be a law that if a person isn't a Sherlock Holmes fan, has never read any of the stories, and barely passed basic history, they shouldn't be allowed to write a screenplay using the character. This was such a ham-fisted story, I was actually laughing. The premise is the "beginning" of Holmes as a character. The film attempts to portray the reasons why Holmes is a drug user, his fixation on Moriarty, and his relationships with Mycroft, Watson, Lestrade, and women in general, all of which have already been established by the author to some degree and are really just superficial details to the point of the stories: the mysteries and the emerging science of forensics. I'm not opposed to a novel rendition or understanding of the character so long as it stays close to the character. What most Holmes fans wish to see are stories that stay true to the time and characters, but involve new mysteries, which apparently screen writers are unable to accomplish.
In the beginning of this film, Holmes appears to have killed Professor Moriarty, who turns out not to be a respected professor of such high intelligence that he runs a complex and far-reaching criminal enterprise filled with a vast array of minions and paid thugs, but is instead a simple-minded drug dealer at a time when doing so was not illegal. Holmes meets Lestrade for the first time with the result that Holmes isn't arrested for murder simply because he informs Lestrade that the person he killed is Moriarty, the non-criminal criminal, whose body conveniently fell into the sewer system & floated away. At another non-criminal drug dealer's request, Holmes attends the autopsy of yet another non-criminal drug dealer and meets Watson, a rotund loud mouth with all the caring, grace, and intelligence of a bar room drunkard. Holmes's female interest is a slum "actress" (a-hem: whore) played by Gabrielle Anwar, prior to her current mutation into Skeletor so that she is at least viewable, with a heart of gold and strong morals despite her social status. We see neither hide nor hair of Mrs. Hudson, which is extremely convenient as Holmes beds plenty of low class women in his apartment with nary an STD, pregnancy, or social repercussion and it firmly puts to rest the question of his sexual orientation (don't get excited about this, there aren't any sex scenes, just after-glow bed scenes). Moriarty is played by D'onofio, who does a good job portraying a slightly crazed drug dealer which unfortunately causes him to fall squarely on his face trying to portray an evil, menacing genius criminal mastermind who can charm all the Lords and Ladies.
Not to give to much away on this plot (I'm going to anyway), but you can pretty much guess most of it simply based on the idea that this film is trying to explain the facts surrounding the character of Holmes. Mycroft was a victim of Moriarty and is now crippled (not merely lazy & certainly not influential in any other capacity); Moriarty's big brilliant plan is a new drug that will force the government to make drug use illegal (because all the social problems caused by drug addiction aren't enough), thereby making him a criminal drug dealer (because that is really advantageous to sales); this drug needs a new name that should be "heroic" (how long do you think it took the writers to come up with that one?); Holmes can't get married or father a child and needs to be so emotionally broken that he'll never become attached to another female again; he also can't voluntarily be a drug user, he must be an addicted victim; Watson needs to become friends with Holmes and move in with him for no reason what so ever; and we have to kill Moriarty again so he can fall into some more water and show back up in the sequel. Sprinkled throughout the film are little lessons for the benefit of the audience: legalizing drugs is good, being an addict is bad but it's not your fault you're an idiot who started, cigarettes are bad, pipe smoking (for some stupid reason) is a healthy way to smoke tobacco, drinking is good, casual sex is good and consequence free, people fall eternally in love with each other in about 2 hours but are doomed to fail so love is bad, and the usual: cops are stupid.
Although I can't say this film is unwatchable, it is extraordinarily predictable, making it dull, lifeless, and boring. The forced social "lessons", the clunky dialog, and the obvious shoehorning of some quintessential Sherlockian folklore & character development into a 90 minute program to justify the "Sherlock" title does make for painful and embarrassing viewing.
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