In the darkly nimble yet frictionless Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Robert Downey Jr. mutters his lines with the caustic British quickness of a man who can’t be bothered to pay attention to normal levels of perception. He’s operating on a 20-20 brain frequency all his own. Downey, once again, proves a charmingly flip if slightly perturbed Holmes (the ability to take in everything in a single glance makes him feel blessed but alienated, like some genteel Victorian X-Man). Holmes and Watson (Jude Law), his light-fingered BFF, uncover a plot hatched by Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a good guy who is secretly bad. He’s out to kick-start World War I, all so that he can profit from it — a more lavishly designed scheme than the one in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.
Yet here, as before, part of the movie’s perversely cheeky design is that it throws away its own cleverness. Director Guy Ritchie loves whooshy, rapid-fire speed shifts, and uses them for hypnotic sequences in which Holmes thinks out his fistfights in advance or darts from one clue to the next. Ritchie, if he wanted, could probably make a classic Holmes caper, but instead he treats Holmes’ insights as mere froth. Isn’t it a bit glib to turn the most famous master of deduction into the first victim of ADD? B-