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SHERLOCK HOLMES
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Purists, beware.

Director Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” bears little resemblance to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective hero.

But fans of action movies will find much to like in this bit of popcorn escapism that plays more like a James Bond flick than a crime mystery.

Robert Downey, Jr. (“Iron Man”) portrays the famed Victorian master of deductive reasoning and Jude Law (“Alfie”) is his best friend and fellow amateur detective, Dr. Watson.

Veterans Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg and Lionel Wigram wrote the convoluted screenplay. Naturally, it seems like a committee wrote it.

It isn’t much of a stretch to suppose that director Guy Ritchie, whose approach values style over substance, thought up a series of action sequences and then decided to build his story around them. As long as your aim is simply to mount an action adventure flick, then this approach is as good as any.

But for those who enjoy a whodunit and want to match wits with Holmes and various villains, they’ll be disappointed.

The plot involves one of Holmes’ old flames, a con artist named Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams from “The Time Traveler’s Wife”), the only woman to have outwitted him. She approaches Holmes to find a missing “midget,” setting a complicated narrative into motion.

What Holmes uncovers involves a mysterious secret society of the supernatural (think of the Masons with magical powers) that involves some of the most powerful men in the government.

The main villain is Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong from “Body of Lies”), a wealthy aristocrat who indulges in ritual human sacrifices. He manipulates those around him by threatening revenge from the dark side.

It seems that he may be able to deliver on those threats. After being executed, Lord Blackwood appears to have risen from the grave, continuing his reign of terror.

Downey is terrific, as always. The only downside to his cagey performance is that his British accent is sometimes unintelligible. Otherwise, he’s a good fit as the brilliant detective who, in this case, is as good with his fists as he is with his brain.

Ritchie and his production crew have created a beautiful looking Victorian England that only occasionally clashes with the screenplay’s very modern dialogue.

But the real attractions here are the zippy action set pieces that Ritchie crafts with great care.

While overlong and overblown, “Sherlock Holmes” is a minor but entertaining bit of popcorn escapism. (PG-13) Rating: ***

* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it

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