27. Sherlock: Case of Evil (2002, TV)
IMDB score = 6.0/10
Holmes and Watson? = James D’Arcy and Roger Morlidge
Synopsis = Early in his crime-solving career, Sherlock Holmes attempts to prevent Moriarty from cornering the heroin market.
Defense by M. L. Duffy:
The film begins with a mystery - a man chasing two men through London’s back streets at night in October 1886. Young adult Holmes is pursuing Moriarty who features in Sherlock’s recurring nightmare as the personification of evil in Sherlock’s mind. James D’Arcy, playing the titular Sherlock, produces a template for the physical appearance of the BBC Sherlock.
The first canon reference is to Holmes’ skill in fencing. The opening credits have barely ended as, six minutes in, Holmes, who is unknown to the police, is arrested by Lestrade for murder. Pleading self-defence while acting for a female client, Holmes secures his release.
The devious bumping off of criminals brings Holmes his next client leading to meeting Dr. Watson. Watson is intelligent, strong and is the canonical bringer of light.
The plot deepens as a suspected murderer apparently commits suicide at which point Watson must decide if he cares more about keeping his job or collaborating with Holmes to serve justice. The deductions are original and plausible.
After setbacks Holmes understands he has been set up; he doubts his abilities and loses heart. Watson cleverly devises a way to send Holmes back to work.
Holmes and Watson work together ushering in a canonical scene treated in an original way. The lady is in danger of her life and so is Holmes.
Following his “darkest hour” Holmes engineers his escape and is revived by the lady. Holmes and Watson locate the criminal’s lair and fetch in Lestrade. The lady is abducted meanwhile, taking Holmes and Watson to a building site and peril. The big bad proves himself to be the most evil man on the planet in an explosive bout of action before escaping. Watson is out of action forcing Holmes to tackle the villain alone in a one on one fight to the death in a well-conceived location that adds to the tension. The film wraps up with Watson becoming Holmes’ chronicler and Holmes receiving convalescence gifts.
This is a fun film that does not overload or skimp on witty banter or dialogue sparkling with irony. Lestrade has a few golden deadpan moments while the biggest villain is a king of snark. Always interesting is the wily newspaper reporter, Coutts.
Holmes is neither unemotional nor an abstainer when seduced and is addicted to cigarettes which Watson expects to be made illegal unlike substances in everyday medicinal use which reflects Victorian reality. Set details are also beautifully detailed.
This film is neither lacking in mysteries nor pace but believable motives arise from the themes of the pros and cons of Empire building, the role of newspapers, police underfunding and more.
If looking for a believable Holmes in his late twenties with a switched on Watson who can hold his own for an hour and a half of fun and mystery with action and tenderness where the romantic sub-plot is intrinsic to the main plot then this is a film to enjoy.