Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A few years ago, no one in their right mind would put ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘James Bond’ in the same sentence. But after Guy Ritchie’s re-imagining of the Victorian sleuth in 2009, all preconceived notions flew out the window.

The sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows arrives in theaters with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) once again resembling Jason Bourne more than the staid chap who sat waiting for the hound outside Merripit House. A crack shot, a martial arts master, and a fellow who enjoys dressing in drag even when he doesn’t need to, this Sherlock Holmes is about as far from the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories as he can possibly be.

But the smarts and the wit are still there, along with the uncanny ability to solve unsolvable crimes. And Watson (Jude Law) is there by his side, too.

This go-round, Holmes battles wits with the equally-adept Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), a super-smart intellectual who’s hell-bent on getting World War One started a decade or so early.

Teaming up with Watson and a gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace), Holmes travels to London, Paris, Germany and Switzerland, pulling out all the stops along the way to keep the world at peace, at least for a few years more.

Ritchie amps up the action even more than in the first, giving Holmes no shortage of opportunities to smack, whack, and stomp people into submission. There are explosions and gunfights galore, and even a nifty little sequence involving cannons and howitzers in a snowy German forest.

But Game of Shadows is not without its flaws, and chief among them is the muddled mess of a script by Michele and Kieran Mulroney. Sure, there’s plenty of hilarious banter between Holmes and Watson, but the plot itself is overly-complex, and it takes about an hour too long to get going. There are also plenty of head-scratcher moments, including Holmes’ showing more interest in donning yet another disguise than in addressing the death of someone close to him.

Downey’s performance is just as slick as in the first film, but his labored attempt at a British accent never quite comes together, and Harris never really conveys anything close to the menacing nature that you’d expect from Holmes’ arch-enemy. Rapace, though, proves that she’ll have a solid career, post-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Law’s dry, witty charm helps him steal virtually every scene he’s in.

Game of Shadows doesn’t have the same panache as the first film, but for those who like their Holmes a little closer to Hercules than Hercule Poirot, it’s still elementary– the film’s a rollicking good time.

3.5/5 stars