Friday, December 30, 2011

300 Words On Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A perfectly struck golf shot is a wonderful thing.  It's an intricately balanced combination of force, relaxation and commitment.  If one pushes too hard on any one part, the result is, well, not good.  But if you bring them all together, the ball goes.

The first Sherlock Holmes film, starring Robert Downey, Jr and directed by Guy Ritchie, hit it right off the screws, as golfers say.  It was fast paced, smart, funny, and surprising in a way that was totally fair to the audience, holding all of those elements in an almost elegant balance.  But it appears, at least for Ritchie, following up a good movie is as hard to repeat a good golf shot.

This sequel swings much too hard.  The fast pace of the first film becomes frenetic here.  Downey's eccentric and driven Holmes becomes manic.  Sometimes more is better, but this time, when Ritchie "turns it up to eleven" it indeed gives the film what Spinal Taps's David St. Hubbens called "that little extra to push you over the precipice."

Positively, Downey and co-star Jude Law still have a nice chemistry, and Stephen Fry is a fun addition as Holmes' brother Mycroft.  The plot is simpler than the first film, with the mystery much more in service of the action.  But what lingers for me is the portrayal of Holmes' nemesis.  Moriarty is played with a "real" malevolence that throws this popcorn film out of balance.  And it leads me to wonder about the "value" of this sort of film.  If I'm troubled by Moriarty's character in this film, why was I not bothered by the cartoonish violence and bad guys of the first film?  That's a conundrum, as they say, and maybe Downey and Ritchie will help me figure it out in the next sequel.

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