Year Released: 2011
Directed by: Guy Richie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jarad Harris, Stephen Fry
(PG-13, 128 min.)
"He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson." Sherlock Holmes
"Enough of this lounging about in a purple dressing gown. Forget about filling the pipe with tobacco gleaned from the Persian slipper above the fireplace. And no more tedious interviews with pasty-faced housemaids or sniveling petty thieves. In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows we have an action-filled battle with a worthy adversary, and Holmes is the prey rather than the unruffled predator."
With the exception of the film's title, that is exactly what I wrote in 2003, more than eight years ago, long before Guy Richie ever dreamed of his steampunk Sherlock Holmes cinematic offerings. These words were, in fact, a preface to my mystery cookbook's chapter on the original Arthur Conan Doyle classic tale, “The Final Problem.”
I bring this up, not merely to shill shamelessly for my book Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover's Cookbook, which I having been doing on a regular basis all month, but to point out that the story behind this latest film effort featuring Robert Downey Jr. as a prototypic man of action is, indeed, imbedded in Doyle’s writings. And that the short story upon which Richie's film is loosely based was itself a departure from Doyle’s more cerebral Holmes stories where deductive methods trumped action.
Maybe some of the action was the cathartic release Doyle enjoyed briefly as he attempted to kill off his fictional detective, “whom he viewed as a bowing baritone who refused to leave the stage.”
I agree with film critic Ken Hanke, one of the few who praises this film “as a rare thing – that sequel that is better than the original.” He also goes to great lengths to point out how the film actually builds on the Doyle texts more than 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, debunking what some self-appointed purists see as blasphemies, such as Holmes appearing in drag.
Now, before we go any further, let’s get this nonsense about the “appalling” business of Sherlock Holmes in drag, uh, straight. At least one critic has expressed outrage over this. I hate to be the one to disabuse them of how unthinkable this is, but Holmes dresses in drag in at least one story, “The Mazarin Stone,” and appeared on the screen in drag in William K. Howard’s Sherlock Holmes way back in 1932, so the idea is hardly the shocking liberty some want to portray it as.
As I said in 2009, Sherlock Holmes uses Doyle’s texts as a springboard for vaulting him in new directions, just as the famed Basil Rathbone / Nigel Bruce pairing catapulted the duo into World War II Britain, where they exchanged the snap of a whip and echoing hoof beats for the rumble of a motor car.
Other examples of diversions from the Holmes cannon, as those of you who have followed my recent Sherlock Holmes mini film fest will note, include The Seven-Per-Cent Solution,where it takes the famed Sigmund Freud to cure Holmes’ drug addled brain of the illusion that his former mathematics instructor, Dr. Moriarty, is the Napoleon of crime.
As well as 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes, which posits an early meeting between Holmes and Watson at boarding school, and a poignant reason for Holmes confirmed bachelorhood. (There was not so much caterwauling back then about authenticity, but in that gentler age we were not burdened with so many self-important critics.)
And finally I mention the 2010 critically acclaimed Masterpiece Theater offering A Study in Pink, which time warps a young Holmes to the present, where he is a self-described “high functioning sociopath" gleefully traipsing around modern day London on the heels of a serial killer.
Put me in with Jeff Meyers, who notes the purist objections but embraces the purposeful excess in this 2011 release:
While Sherlock Holmes purists will still bristle at Hollywood's reinvention of the genius detective, A Game of Shadows does what most sequels set out to do: offers bigger explosions, more elaborate stunts and grander set pieces.
I say as I did of the 2009 film, “Take this new adventure in the same vein, old wine in a new bottle, but every bit as hearty, delicious, and intoxicating as ever.”
But just to give both sides, here is some of the caterwauling:
Oh dear. Guy Ritchie has been bankrolled to pillage Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective once more, … and is as determined to present Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as figments of his own imagination, ripping off their names and reputations. Andrew L. Urban
It is a story about a genius that shamelessly panders to the audience segment that cares only about punchy style and easy quips. Tim Brayton
Robert Downey’s Holmes is from the end of the next century. His stubble is not even of the designer kind, his dress what passes now as "smart casual". The introspective, contemplative, ratiocinative, philosophic aspect of Holmes gets obscured as Ritchie turns him into a 21st-century man of action in the mould of Indiana Jones and Daniel Craig's ultra-tough James Bond. Phillip French
And perhaps the most damning and creative, Ed Whitfield assumes the character of Holmes himself having to sit through this new interpretation:
“They were imbeciles, Watson,” said Holmes. “My method has been reduced to a series of asinine observations that a chicken could have made. There’s barely any deduction at all. Rather, it seems that the me of this photoplay is engaged in some kind of glorified orienteering exercise, following a simpleton’s clues from place to place and once arrived in each, content to dance and slide like a circus performer. I’m a consulting detective not an acrobat and magician!”
— Kathy Borich
The final confrontation between Holmes and his Nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, occurs at Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. It is, as Doyle described in his writings and Richie does so well in his film, a fearful place: “The torrent, swollen by the melting snow, plunges into a tremendous abyss, from which the spray rolls up like the smoke from a burning house.”
Let us wash away the cares of the long and arduous trip there, and it is perhaps better to forget the infamous Hedgehog Stew that is part of the extraneous gypsy plot Richie injects into his film. From “Lederhosen and Legerdemain,” featuring “An Alpine Affair with Pastry Light as Air,” I draw again upon my little cookbook for this recipe for a Swiss Tart that is reminiscent of the famous meat pies of England. Ours features ham, pine nuts, Swiss chard, and Gruyere cheese.
Just the thing to fend off the dank night air or the cold and watery depths that beckon below Reichenbach Falls.
Swiss Tart with Pine Nuts
Tarte Suisse with Pine Nuts and Fresh Swiss Chard
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the flour and salt. Stir in the water and oil until blended. Knead mixture briefly and press into an 11'by 13' baking dish. Refrigerate.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced green onions
- 1/2 pound Swiss chard leaves or other greens, stems removed, leaves
- washed and chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, fennel leaves, and dill
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup finely diced cooked ham
- 1/2 cup finely diced Gruyere cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 2 eggs, beaten
Sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent. Add the chard and cook an additional 10 minutes. Season with freshly snipped herbs and coarsely ground black pepper.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in the sautéed chard mixture. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tart shell. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling firm. Let cool before serving.
Recipe Source: Appetite for Murder: A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook