Sherlock Holmes Becomes Mr. Franchise

Forget the Sherlock Holmes once known as a detective with a keen and unforgiving intelligence. That Holmes — a creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — has vanished inside a much more contemporary creation: a kick-ass movie franchise.

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” — the second movie starring Robert Downey Jr. (as Holmes) and Jude Law (as Dr. Watson) – seems less interested in celebrating Holmes’ legendary powers of deduction than in flexing as much action-movie muscle as possible.

So it should come as no surprise that the plot doesn’t much matter, except to say that it pits Holmes against arch rival James Moriarty, played here by a bearded, confidently evil Jared Harris.

In the early going, Holmes frets over Watson’s impending marriage. Few other renderings of Sherlock have flirted so openly with Holmes and Watson’s infatuation with each another, and this one goes so far as give them an improbable comic scene in which they waltz together.

If you saw the first installment, you pretty much know director Guy Ritchie’s game. He sees Holmes as a disheveled detective who’s as quick with his fists as he is with his wits. For his part, Downey lives up to this image of Holmes, seldom looking as if he’s not in need of a bath.

The banter between Holmes and Watson doesn’t exactly reach Noel Coward levels, and there’s no enjoying “Game of Shadows” if you don’t revel in amped-up action, including the firing of some very heavy artillery.

Ritchie, who also directed the first installment, italicizes his violence, showing us how Holmes plots out his moves before executing them. It’s a way of letting us know that Holmes is thoughtful about the way he squares off against foes.

Even taken on its own terms, there are miscalculations here: Noomi Rapace, the brilliant Swedish actress who created the role of Lizbeth Salander in the Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon” Tattoo,” is entirely wasted as a gypsy woman who’s shoe-horned into the movie for plot reasons.

Surely, Rapace could have made larger contribution; her role is the dramatic equivalent of a guy who holds another guy’s coat during a fistfight.

Stephen Fry fares better in a genuinely amusing role as Holms’ diplomat brother, Mycroft Holmes. Fry’s comic talents are used to best effect in a scene in which he appears nude. (No, we don’t see enough of Fry to challenge the movie’s PG-13 rating.)

When not busy changing costumes, Holmes’ tries to get to the bottom of a mystery that has something to do with arms sales and with setting various European countries at one another’s throats. But let’s be honest: There’s nothing much at stake here apart from getting to the next action-oriented set piece and maintaining the scaffolding of characters and effects that keeps the series from toppling.

“Game of Shadows” does that – and so it probably should be regarded as a passable addition to a successful franchise. I didn’t love “Game of Shadows,” but I didn’t mind Ritchie’s latest action contraption, either. Maybe that’s because nothing about this helping of “Sherlock Holmes” needs to be taken very seriously – and Ritchie seems to know it.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *