More noise than signal

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

’d hoped to revisit the first of the Guy Ritchie helmed Holmes takes alongside this, but time and information technology prevented that. However my recollection was that I much preferred this second entry anyway, despite the absence of hilarious Mark Strong wigs.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes intrudes upon the recently married bliss of Jude Law’s Dr. Watson when the pair become embroiled in the schemes of criminal mastermind Professor Moriarity, him again, here played by Jared Harris. While there is, of course, a plot, and a plot within that plot, as it’s a plot about plotting, this sentence has become so recursive that i need to take a breather.

What I’m getting at is that there’s not a lot to be gained by giving you a blow by blow recap – Sherlock believes Moriarty is up to no good, Moriarty confirms this during a show of mutual respect for the other’s brilliance, and warns him to back off, lest inconveniences be visited upon him and the Watsons the same way they were visited upon Irene Adler, who I guess must have been Holmes’ love interest from the first film? I don’t remember, but the early doors fridging seems to provide Holmes with enough motivation to follow his nose on these schemes, eventually revealed to be of globe-spanning conflict puppeteering, and stop them.

Along the way they’ll team up with Noomi Rapace’s fortune teller slash anarchist in search of her brother, and barrel through a Europe on the verge of war with Moriarty’s goons in hot pursuit, turning this into as much of an action film as a detective story. Well, a lot more of an action film than a detective story. Well, an action film. With slight detective overtones. Very slight.

This came out to mixed reviews, but a fair amount of commercial success which is at least somewhat indicative of an audience thumbs up. I can see why this might not be to someone’s taste, but this is right up my alley. It is, frankly, ridiculous. Witness Holmes’ “urban camouflage” suits, in which he’s basically painting himself the same colour as the background. Laughable, but, well, that’s the point. It’s as much of a comedy as an action film with slight detective overtones.

See also the evolution of Holmes’ omniscient detective vision that somehow gives him the foresight of Cassandra and the martial arts skills of Tony Jaa, to the point that he might as well be Neo off The Matrix. Congratulations, I suppose, to the filmmakers for making Bartitsu seem even sillier than it was in Doyle’s time.

Speaking of which, while Guy Ritchie’s treatment here isn’t more or less influenced by Wachowskis’ film than any other post 2000 actioner, it does remind us of how long a shadow that film has cast. Ritchie throws a few curveball stylistics – particularly that bloke loading the large gun towards the end – but in general he’s put together a pacy, punch set of action sequences that’s an enjoyable ride.

Still, that alone wouldn’t carry the film, but there’s some highly enjoyable dialogue threaded throughout the film, with likeable interplay between Downey Jr. and Law and a fine turn by Harris that’s villainous without chewing quite so much scenery as our other example spoken of today. Noomi Rapace is perhaps a little hard done by, but manages to inject a good amount of life into a character that deserves more screentime than she gets.

It is so over the top as to have wandered into no-man’s land, but that’s exactly why I like it. It’s a Crank film with a Sherlock Holmes skin, and there’s nothing about that I don’t like. Apart from the absence of Jason Statham.

I had intended to close out this review by bemoaning the untimely death of the franchise, but I see there a sequel planned for next year, which rather takes the wind out of those sails. Still, it does give me a reason to be very glad to watch Iron Man die in the next Avengers film.