Guy Ritchie’s Dastardly Sherlock Reboot

Guy Ritchie’s calculations in his sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are so low-down they’re almost diabolical. He has retooled the famous fictional detective character with no respect for either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary creation or the ticket-buying audience. Against tradition (previous incarnations of Holmes that emphasized mystery and deduction), Ritche panders to current, degraded taste for blatancy and violence.

This time Holmes’ (Robert Downey, Jr.) clash with arch villain Moriarty (Jared Harris) evokes 9/11 and Afghanistan along with the previous film’s kung-fu anachronisms, over-done F/X and Ritchie’s brand of macho banter between diguise-crazy Holmes and his fusty sidekick Watson (Jude Law). It’s what Brits call lad humor but Americans understand it as thuggish. So Downey’s fake British accent suits Ritchie’s concoction for a facetious, half-Hollywood hit.

The period setting recalls Jonah Hex which apparently was too sophisticated to be popular. Ritchie reboots Holmes for a market unaccustomed to thinking, impatient with suspense but eager for relentless, if monotonous, visual stimulation–and massive promotional hype. Adapting his Brit-Tarantino thuggery for the video game demographic, Ritchie often slows down the fighting and gunfire as if relaying the thought processes behind Holmes’ actions. The narrative constantly backs-up as if on rewind. Ritchie does our perception for us, creating no sense of history or emotion–just jovial machismo, brandishing close-ups of Holmes’ facial bruises, wounds and scars.

A Game of Shadows is ready-made for X-Box; its plot is a mess of contiguous chaos in drinking dens, theaters, forests, waterfalls, mountain-top castles, on trains and in great English halls. Holmes and Watson tangle with anarchist bombs, Romany rebels (led by Noomi Rapace, here the girl with the gypsy tattoo) and the dastardly Moriarty spouting nonsense about “You’re not fighting me, you’re fighting the human condition and the tendency toward moral ignorance.” Ritchie should know.

Ritchie should also know better. His Rocknrolla was one of the best action-comedies of the past decade–funny, sexy and heartfelt play with modern British identity. The only justification for this Holmes hackwork would be to finance the sequel promised by Rocknrolla’s cliffhanger ending. Instead, Ritchie abandons his own cultural creation to ruinously imitate the James Bond franchise–he’s closer to Will Smith’s Wild Wild West fiasco.

Follow Armond White on Twitter at 3xChair