ELEMENTARY, INDEED; Director Guy Ritchie Returns to the Simple Pleasures of the Brainless, Big Box-Office Franchise He Created FILM OF THE WEEK

The Evening Standard (London, England), December 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

ELEMENTARY, INDEED; Director Guy Ritchie Returns to the Simple Pleasures of the Brainless, Big Box-Office Franchise He Created FILM OF THE WEEK


Byline: David Sexton

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS Cert 12A, 129 mins IT'S SO unfair. So mean. Halfway through this film, you get such a dreadful shock. Without any warning whatsoever. One of those sights you can't forget however much you try. A horror that pursues you even in your dreams. Permanent harm, inflicted in a moment.

Even to name it may conjure a vision that you don't want in your head, but here goes: it's Stephen Fry stark naked. Imagine! Or, rather, don't. But you can't stop yourself, can you? He is playing -- more crashingly obvious casting this than rare inspiration -- Mycroft, Sherlock Holmes's older brother. It is true that in Conan Doyle's story The Bruce-Partington Plans Mycroft is described as "heavily built and massive" with "a suggestion of uncouth physical inertia in the figure", even as having a "gross body". But Mycroft being a dedicated nudist was not, so far as I can recall, ever Sir Arthur's idea. That this film should have a 12A certificate seems extraordinary in the circumstances, for this scene alone is far more gratuitous than anything in The Human Caterpillar.

The first Sherlock Holmes film directed by Guy Ritchie, Madonna's sacked squeeze who made his name with the execrable gangster flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, was a whopping hit. Released on Christmas Day 2009, it grossed $516 million worldwide. So here's the next slice, more of the same for them as like it. Ritchie has turned these addictive, seductive stories into yet another brainless action franchise, a bit of Bond, a touch of Mission Impossible, a tinge of Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the soon-to-be-released Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the baddie wants to start nuclear world war. He just does, OK? In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Professor Moriarty wants to set off world war as well, so that he can profit by selling armaments. To this end, he has been ratcheting up international tension by fomenting anarchist bombings and assassinations. Only one man can stop him ... Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock has real intensity, a volatile, nervy presence that makes him highly watchable, and a kooky, almost scummy look to him too. What he doesn't convincingly convey is Sherlock's cerebral life, the time he spends in repose thinking the problems out. Instead, to convey Holmes's genius, Ritchie has come up with the awful invention, "Holmes-o-vision". When he is about to get into a fight -- he's always about to get into a fight -- you see speeded-up images of how he calculates the fight will go. When he sizes up a situation, the camera darts around the room in lightning little cuts, because "he sees everything". …

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