Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows | Film review
Robert Downey Jr. returns as the brawling detective of Guy Ritchie’s dumbed-down Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation.
Leave it to Hollywood to take one of literature’s great thinkers and turn him into a Victorian-era action hero. Sherlock Holmes (2009) ditched everything cerebral about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous property, opting instead to construct a forgettable (albeit character-driven) amusement-park ride. As played by Robert Downey Jr., the great detective became a puckish, unshaven macho eccentric whose genius manifested itself chiefly through superhuman reflexes and awesome martial-arts moves. With apologies to Conan Doyle and his diehards, this brawn-over-brains approach actually kind of worked, provided you could get down with director Guy Ritchie’s jaunty vision of 19th-century London.
It works again in A Game of Shadows, though false hints of a headier direction make one uncomfortably aware of how incessantly the franchise plays dumb. Rekindling their antagonistic, homoerotic buddy-cop routine, Holmes and a newly married Dr. Watson (Jude Law) get mixed up in an international terrorist plot that teams them with a Gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace, of the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The heavy this time out is none other than Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), the brilliant archnemesis of Doyle’s novels, reconfigured here into a war-profiteering Bond villain. The movie teases us with an intellectual showdown between our hero and his evenly matched rival, only to culminate instead in a round of slow-motion fisticuffs. For a real battle of wits, look instead to Masterpiece Theatre’s recent Sherlock. It’s got brains and brawn to spare.