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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Man With The Twisted Everything"
3 stars

It doesn't take a person with exceptionally keen deduction to understand why "Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows" is now playing at a theater near you. Simply put, "Sherlock Holmes," the 2009 film that returned Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective character to the big screen in the form of a wise-cracking ass-kicker played by Robert Downey Jr., grossed something like a half-billion dollars worldwide (even though it was released opposite a little thing called "Avatar") and made the notion of a sequel inevitable, even though I suspect that many of those viewers who contributed to its massive box-office haul would be hard-pressed to recall any specific details about the film if asked thanks to its forgettable story and rather nondescript villain . Nevertheless, a winning formula is a winning formula and so "A Game of Shadows" more or less follows in its predecessor's footsteps, albeit with a better villain and a slightly more coherent narrative popping up amidst the fistfights and massive explosions. The end result is a film that is a little better than the original but still pretty much a noisy jumble that once again reduces one of the greatest and most durable of literary characters into just another two-fisted action hero, though admittedly one slightly freakier than the norm.

As the story opens, Europe is being rocked by a series of bombings that are threatening to exacerbate the already existing tensions between France and Germany. While most people have assumed the bombing to be the handiwork of an anarchist group, Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has his own suspicions and is convinced that they are actually the handiwork of Professor James Moriarity (Jared Hess), a learned and respected man whom Holmes believe to be "the Napoleon of crime." Determined to get to the bottom of what Moriarity is up to, Holmes shanghais his partner, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), away from his honeymoon with long-suffering bride Mary (Kelly Reilly) to get to the bottom of things. On a journey that takes them across half of Europe, Holmes and Watson engage in numerous bickering fights, defy any number of deadly traps and eventually uncover Moriarity's more-diabolical-than-usual plan to simultaneously destroy half the world while making an enormous profit off of the ensuing chaos. Aiding Holes and Watson in their quest are con woman Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), Holmes' equally erudite and bizarre brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) and Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller who may know more about Moriarity's plot than even she fully realizes. How it all ends is something that I wouldn't dream of revealing, of course, but longtime students of Holmes' adventures may be a bit startled when they discover the location of the grand finale. Then again, maybe they will have suspected it all along.

The problems with "Sherlock Holmes: A Games of Shadows" are virtually identical to the first film--so much so, in fact, that it is evident that no one involved with the production actually considered them to be flaws in the first place. For starters, even though Sherlock Holmes is pretty much synonymous with mystery and most of the pleasure in the stories comes from watching him tease the solutions out of the most seemingly meaningless of clues or extraneous details, there is precious little of that on display here. The screenplay by Michelle Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney is largely a jumble that lurches from one extravagant set-piece to the next with seemingly little rhyme or reason and whatever explanations that are given tend to be nearly drowned out by the surrounding chaos. Once again, the film prefers to portray Holmes as a man of action than of logic and reason and while it is amusing for a bit to see him displaying his keen skills with firearms and martial arts, he rarely gets a chance to show off his mental acumen as well.

And even in the rare moments in which Holmes is allowed to deduce things, director Guy Ritchie, the British filmmaker who began so promisingly with the quirky crime films "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" and then descended into such inexplicable garbage as "Revolver" and "Rocknrolla" before hitching his star to this franchise, is apparently so worried that the attention span of his audience might drift away unless it is constantly being stimulated, once again presents these deductions in a hyper-stylized visual manner that is amusing at first but, like much of the rest of the film, grows a bit tiresome after a while although this particular gimmick is given an amusing twist late in the proceedings. And while the tales of Sherlock Holmes are not especially famous for their well-developed female characters, it seems like a complete waste to bring someone as charismatic and compelling as Noomi Rapace (in her first major film since becoming an international star via the Swedish film versions of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels) into the proceedings and then give her virtually nothing to do--in terms of cinematic crimes, this is easily the equal to anything perpetrated by the arch-fiend Moriarity.

As before, Robert Downey Jr. is pretty much the best thing on display here. Even though the version of Holmes that he is playing is a broader one than is usually seen, he is one of the few actors around today who can convincingly depict his keen intellect, sharp wit and somewhat bizarre personal quirks in such a way that he makes Holmes strangely likable and sympathetic almost despite himself. Granted, there are too many scene in which he almost seems to be a bystander stuck in the midst of all the action surrounding him but when he gets a chance to do something that doesn't require him to dodge fists or duck shrapnel, he is mighty entertaining. One big improvement this time around is the long-awaited introduction of the cunning Moriarity, who is nicely played here by Harris. Unlike the forgettable lunk played by Mark Strong the first time around, Moriarity is a more than worthy adversary for Holmes and Harris is likewise for Downey and indeed, the best scenes in the film are the ones in which the two of them square off for the occasional meeting of the minds. Although somewhat underutilized in the proceedings, the invaluable Stephen Fry steals most of his brief scenes as Mycroft to such an extent that I wouldn't mind seeing a spin-off film dedicated entirely to him at some point.

Like the previous film, I cannot really recommend "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" because it is, for the most part, too busy and too foolish without ever really demonstrating any firm grasp on what it is that has made Sherlock Holmes such a fascinating character over the years. Then again, it is a little better than "Sherlock Holmes" and as cinematic attempts to juice up the property go, it is certainly more tolerable than such excruciating works as "Without a Trace" or the abysmal "Young Sherlock Holmes," though it is hardly a patch on such borderline brilliant works as Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" or "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution." Considering the fact that this film is almost certain to be another enormous hit at the box-office this season, it is extremely likely that another installment will be coming along in a couple of years time. Hopefully by then, the filmmakers will take a little bit of those millions and use them to literally buy themselves and the movie a clue or two.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20919&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/15/11 22:58:11
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Features Sherlock Holmes For more in the Sherlock Holmes series, click here.

User Comments

12/02/15 1800suckmydick well shot, well acted, well orchestrated, well done. 5 stars
1/16/13 ES Sherlock Holmes - Quantum of Solace. Sherlock shoots his way through a mystery 1 stars
9/18/12 Gabrielle Barnard I enjoyed the brilliant acting and intriguing story line. 5 stars
9/15/12 Eric Stevens It's Simply Entertaining from beginning to end-Quit overthinking it! Geezzz 5 stars
8/23/12 The Taitor A littleflat or a sequel but still wrotha rental at best. 3 stars
7/20/12 Sean Harrison Better than the first movie, but not as good as the stories. 4 stars
7/01/12 mr.mike Worth a shot but gets dragged down by the plot-heavy second half.nyc 4 stars
1/24/12 Devin Sabas skip it. the bbc is doing it way better 2 stars
1/12/12 Donald Hallett not my type of movie boring 2 stars
1/01/12 Alan Left before the end. Boring. 2 stars
12/21/11 green O should be ok 3 stars
12/20/11 Stacie Clark haven't we done this before? 3 stars
12/19/11 KingNeutron I liked it even better than the 1st one - here's hoping for more to the story :) 4 stars
12/16/11 Ming Its better than the original. Its very witty and fun to watch 4 stars
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  16-Dec-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Jun-2012


  DVD: 12-Jun-2012

Directed by
  Guy Ritchie

Written by
  Kieran Mulroney
  Michele Mulroney

  Robert Downey Jr.
  Jude Law
  Noomi Rapace
  Jared Harris
  Stephen Fry

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