1 “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” + 1 “Iron Man 2”
= 2 “Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows”
“Sherlock Holmes” is entertaining enough if you don’t care about coherence. In fact, the movie is a form of cinematic nihilism. Not in the Tarantino ultra-violent way, but it’s sheer disregard of plot and character suggests an indifference to social order. Robert Downey Jr. rips off one liners in every scene, playing Sherlock was an arrogant genius trapped in a world of “Batman and Robin” caliber dialogue. A sample:
Evil Nemesis Are you sure you want to play this game?
Witty Hero: I’m afraid you’d lose.
He’s beta male BFF, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), is getting married, drastically reducing the possibility of shenanigans they can get into. So, Holmes drags the couple into his case, “the most important one of my career,” through a series of rather well-planned contrivances.
Here’s where the nihilism kicks in. The movie asks us to believe that Holmes anticipates a rooftop fight on a train, after he’s stowed himself aboard in Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s luggage, where at just the right moment, he tosses the wife off a bridge safely to the water below. Yes, I know, it’s an action movie. And I don’t care if the movie plays loose with the laws of physics. But I do ask for a modicum of believability in character.
Guy Ritchie understands exactly what he’s doing. The film is basically a string of set pieces threaded together by Ritchie’s super-slo-mo and micro-focus on spinning bullets sequences. We’ve seen all this before. Ritchie thinks, though, that his quick-edited, time-bending sequences cleverly show how far ahead of the game Holmes is. We watch a sequence up to the brink of conclusion (including a set piece involving a balcony and a chess board!), then Ritchie’s smash cuts to inside Holmes’ and his nemesis’ (Jared Harris, playing some sort of indecipherable white collar criminal) heads, imagining the complex game play of the fight sequences until we…surprise!…discover that Holmes is one step ahead!
The sheer number of impossibilities is, well, par for the course. But Ritchie’s style draws such attention to them—in fact, that’s whole point—that we can’t possibly maintain the illusion. Basically, Ritchie asks us to watch the magician perform the trick right up to the big reveal, then explains how it’s done in minute detail, then finishes the trick. It’s insulting.