Robert Downey Jr. Sees Every Detail in My Fish & Chips

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holmes_crop.jpg
Warner Bros.
Downey Jr. with original Dragon Tattoo girl Noomi Rapace.
The Dinner : Fish & Chips, at Red Robin (Pier 55).

The Movie :

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Robert Downey Jr. Sees Every Detail in My Fish & Chips

  • Robert Downey Jr. Sees Every Detail in My Fish & Chips

  • ">

    holmes_crop.jpg
    Warner Bros.
    Downey Jr. with original Dragon Tattoo girl Noomi Rapace.
    The Dinner: Fish & Chips, at Red Robin (Pier 55).

    The Movie: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

    The Screenplate: The Sherlock Holmes detective stories are an entirely English confection, and Robert Downey Jr. is an entirely American movie star. Why, with a serviceable English accent, he was cast to play Holmes in the 2009 hit movie is a question best left to studio marketing executives. Perhaps no English actor, no matter how talented, could open the movie as wide from Dubai to Dubuque. Jude Law, cast as Dr. Watson, probably would've given us a deeper, more tormented detective, but authenticity was not what Hollywood wanted. The first Holmes movie, and now this sequel (also directed by Guy Ritche), are export products. A Game of Shadows is a denatured entertainment that bears few traces of Arthur Conan Doyle or his late Victorian culture. The energetic pacing, all stops and starts, with Holmes dashing from one brawl to the next shootout, is entirely American. It's a hybrid--not terribly good, not entirely bad, and rather more filling than a moviegoer might hope. (You want 90 minutes but get 121.) So for dinner, I stuffed myself on another English export that's been excessively battered to suit American tastes...

    Red Robin is a chain restaurant, and there is nothing wrong with that. In a mall or a food court, it's almost haute cuisine. Anyplace else, it's an available dining option. On the Seattle waterfront, however, the Red Robin at Pier 55 is blessed with a great location and wonderful views of Elliott Bay. And, for that reason, like every other joint on the waterfront, it serves mediocre food at unforgivable prices. But there is value, I suppose, in a super-sized serving of fish and chips ($11.99) that could easily feed two. On a sunny summer day, you'd be advised to order it as take-out; then you can sit outside in Waterfront Park or on the tips of the piers that are--though little advertised and poorly signed--open to the public. In winter, however, you're stuck inside the garish restaurant with your dinner. Festooned with old signs and trombones nailed to the walls, Red Robin is ersatz old-timey, something like the new Holmes movie.

    1891 is a transitional year for Holmes (and the Holmes franchise), with automobiles, trains, automatic pistols, and the threat of world war. Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris), Holmes' great rival, is conspiring to start European conflict 23 years too soon, then profit from selling munitions to both sides. All of which takes Holmes, despite his great intellect and keen observation, way too long to discern. There are clues and fisticuffs, even a Cossack and a band of Gypsies (including the original Girl With a Dragon Tattoo girl, Noomi Rapace, as a fortune teller), and the need to jaunt across Europe from London to Paris to a German arms factory and finally to a Swiss castle perched on a precipice above an icy waterfall (this a nod to Conan Doyle's (The Adventure of the Final Problem). Along the course of Holmes and Watson's adventure, the look and costumes are all period-correct, but the pacing is as impatient yet distended as any modern theme-park ride. Ritchie just keep piling on the capers and narrow escapes, leaving his hero little chance to demonstrate his formidable intellect.

    Holmes is only allowed to be clever in flashback, when the movie pauses to tell us what he saw before in order to engineer his latest unlikely escape. ("Competent but predictable" is what Holmes calls Moriarty's boxing, which describes the movie, too.) Otherwise, Game of Shadows bolts along to stuff us viewers--already gorging on candy, popcorn, and soda--with ever more complication and starch. The plate is too heavy, the serving too large. It sits heavy in your stomach afterwards, when you can't remember why you indulged at such length.

    This is also the problem with the fish and chips at Red Robin: there's no delicacy or finesse, just a cascade of fish and an avalanche of fries. You eat it unthinkingly because it's cheap and kind of tasty and it's coming at you so fast. There's no choice but to chew. Reflection and remorse come later, when you've had time to digest and consider. If you don't think about it too much, the fish and chips are a filling, satisfying meal. One that Holmes would never eat. As he says of his acute yet exhausting powers of observation and deduction, "That's my curse." Watching Game of Shadows, or eating at Red Robin, you know just how he feels.

     
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