What with Elementary, Sherlock and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies to name but a few, it’s quite apparent we’re spoilt for interpretations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth. Sherlock: Case of Evil arose a few years before any of the aforementioned were even a glimmer in Tumblr’s eye, and it could, if one was feeling fair, be said that it paved the way them. Well, it could be, if you chose to believe that Case of Evil was actually any good.
Acting as a sort of Holmes Begins, we meet the young detective (James D’Arcy) dining out on the fame brought to him by killing the nefarious Professor Moriarty (Vincent D’Onofrio). Holmes here is young and dashing, and not immune to a few sins. Namely, alcohol and threesomes with rosy cheeked wenches. Yes, indeedy, this is the sexy Holmes you always wanted, a Holmes full of hope. When he skips into the mortuary of Dr John Watson (Roger Morlidge), the two become wrapped up in a mystery that suggests that Moriarty is still alive being a cad and a shit.
As Case of Evil judders forward, it becomes apparent that the film is less concerned with Holmes tracking down Moriarity and more with providing a revisionist’s idea of how Holmes became the man we know him to be. Think of it like Chris Columbus’ Young Sherlock Holmes, but with more blood and breasts. It’s, at best, a lightweight romp across the cobbles with numerous hideous Holmes references crowbarred in.
Oh yes, the references and in-jokes. It crams them in like battery hens, as if there was a checklist of things they wanted to include in order to meet a quota.
Drug addiction – this is how it happened.
Mistrust of women – this is how it happened.
By the time Holmes is unceremoniously given his pipe and deerstalker, the game of interest is no longer afoot, but well and truly over. There’s something rather insulting about the film trying to convince its audience that one single adventure could provide all the intricacies one human can have.Trying to do its own things whilst adhering to the canon of Doyle is probably where it really lets itself down. In for a penny, in for a pound should have been their war cry. After all, it didn’t really hurt the Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes which turned out to be lots of fun.
There’s also an embarrassing number of jokes in Case of Evil that I now refer to as ‘Hindsight Jokes’. You know the kind; someone in Mad Men will make a comment about one day being able to take your phone everywhere, everyone looks at them like he is indeed a man man, and we are all supposed to stroke our chins and laugh, ‘Ha! He’s predicted mobile phones! Hahaha! I’ve forgotten about my parents’ divorce.’ Well, Case of Evil is chock full of them, really bad ones. Ones that make you wish your head was made of glass simply so you could smash it. ‘Step into the 19th century!’ sneers Moriarty when presented with a Sherlock Holmes ready to swordfight. Sigh.
Bombastic to a fault, I’m not sure if the world has been crying out for a gritty, sexy version of Sherlock Holmes. If it is, then this is not it. Move along, nothing to see.