With CBS’ Elementary, BBC’s Sherlock and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, it’s apparent we’re quite 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 if you chose to ignore the glorious films that came before it and, this is the important bit, believed 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 is young and dashing. Not that he’s without sin. Namely, alcohol and threesomes with rosy cheeked wenches. Yes, indeedy, this is a sexy Holmes. A Holmes full of hope. He skips into the mortuary of Dr John Watson (Roger Morlidge) and the two become wrapped up in a mystery that suggests that Moriarty is still alive and basically 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. A bit like Young Sherlock Holmes, but with more blood and breasts. What it really comes across as is a lightweight romp across the cobbles with numerous hideous Holmes references crowbarred in. It crams them in like battery hens. It’s as if there was a checklist of things they wanted to include. 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 and well and truly over. There’s something rather insulting about believing that one whole adventure can 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’s didn’t 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 we’re now referring 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 to which we are all supposed to stroke our chins and think, ‘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 so you could smash it. ‘Step into the 19th century!’ sneers Moriarty when presented with a Sherlock Holmes ready to swordfight.
All in all, we’re not sure if the world is crying out for a gritty, sexy version of Sherlock Holmes. If it is, then this is not it.