Theoretically, Guy Ritchie had quite a bit at stake with the latest rendition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's ceaselessly popular (or rather ceaselessly profitable and easy to remake) Sherlock Holmes. After all, his last two films, Revolver and RocknRolla, did not attract very much in the way of attention or revenue (is it something to do with titling his films with words that begin with "R?"). And yet, somehow, even with three consecutive "flops" (don't forget, Swept Away came before Revolver and RocknRolla), Guy's career never seemed to want for a resuscitation. Even a powerhouse producer like Joel Silver wasn't hindered by the obvious gamble involved in the financing of RocknRolla. But still, why, with all of the evidence proving Guy as anything but a director of box office successes, would he be selected as the one to remake a star-studded, action-infused, studio-helmed film?
The answer is twofold: The first, and most overt, being he is British. And Sherlock Holmes is a quintessentially British story, never mind that Robert Downey Jr. plays the lead. The second is that his directorial techniques are mutable. While he may be known for his fast cutting, gangster sympathies, and music taste that creates a soundtrack far superior to any other in recent years, it is unquestionable that Warner Brothers saw in him the trait of malleability, someone willing to make concessions if asked, perhaps both because of his personality and his desire to claw his way back into the mainstream of film consciousness.
Apart from the why of how Guy Ritchie landed such a coveted film, the other important query is: Does the film live up to the expectations it has been leavened with? I say, yes. And it is definitely better than the standard fare one finds in the cinema. Audiences seemed to agree as Holmes stayed at the top for two weeks before being bumped by Avatar (ugh, a shallow triumph by James Cameron. Sorry, but I really don't give three fucks about the advancement of special effects. For fuck's sake, Dali made better films with the rudimentary tools at his disposal).
The follow up to that aforementioned query, however, is: Does the film measure up against Ritchie's prior films? The answer to that is, sadly, no. Try as Ritchie might to inoculate the movie with traces of himself (e.g. the prominent display of The Punch Bowl, a pub he owns in the posh Mayfair section of London, and Lord Blackwood's creepy utterance of The Book of Revelations, which I maintain is a a discrete show of affection for Madonna's "The Beast Within"), Sherlock Holmes loses Ritchie's typical panache to the talent heavy cast, the slick editing, and a script that he did not write. Even though the cleverness of the dialogue is there to remind you that the sceenplay is in the vain of Ritchie's trademark wry humor, I think people assume that it could have been written any Brit, since the perception is that they're all born with the wit of Shakespeare and the magnetism of the royal family.
Ritchie's chance to return to the more ruffian ways illustrated in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch does not seem to be on the horizon either. His next two projects are an adaptation of his own graphic novel The Gamekeeper and a sequel to Sherlock Holmes.