Six pack-abs and Sherlock Holmes. You wouldn't routinely hear that in the same sentence. But in Sherlock Holmes, director Guy Ritchie and actor Robert Downey Jr have reinvented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 19th century detective.
Instead of the cold, clipped intellectual super sleuth we are familiar with, we have, as co-producer Joel Silver put it, "James Bond in 1891." Is this an improvement? I'm not so sure.
Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed fictional character in the history of film, 75 actors have played him in 211 movies. But here is a Sherlock you've never seen before.
He's frantic, sculpted, rough, dark and decadent - almost like the Victorian cousin of Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean. Downey plays him with an edgy humour and a wicked charm. Jude Law as Watson provides the more stable foil.
The two seem like a handsome couple from a rom-com. They bicker and spar with boisterous affection. This bromance is the best part of the film. However to ensure that you do not entertain any homoerotic thoughts, Ritchie provides both of them with romantic interests. But the women are mere diversions. The real chemistry is between the men.
Unfortunately Ritchie and his legion of writers, don't give these two enough material to work with. The pleasure of a Sherlock Holmes movie comes from the mystery, the suspense and the way Holmes unravels it with his jaw-dropping deductive reasoning.
The mystery here - which involves a diabolical aristocrat who wants to take over the world - is so lame that you hardly care about how Holmes solves it.
The plot is plodding and the script, fussy, over-wrought but largely empty. The film lurches from one set-piece action sequence to another, with the climactic battle playing out on a half-built Tower Bridge. The murky steampunk London visuals are diverting but the special effects are overdone and eventually, Sherlock Holmes feels more exhausting than entertaining. Which is an absolute shame.
The film ends with heavy hints of a sequel and we can only hope that part two is smarter and more vibrant.
Until then, I'm going with an overtly generous three stars. I recommend that you catch Sherlock Holmes but keep expectations low and enjoy the stray sparks that Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law conjure between them.