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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A movie directed by Guy Ritchie

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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

  • Dec 15, 2011
It was two years ago when Guy Ritchie debuted his take of the famous detective from Baker Street. From the outset it enraged traditionalist fans who did not want Sherlock Holmes to be a gritty street fighter. It was fun to watch as any blockbuster should be and Robert Downey Jr. was in the middle of his resurgence. Since that time Downey has become an A-lister while the original movie grossed $524 million dollars worldwide. So while certainly not a great movie it put butts in the seats and while I thought the franchise would be left for dead with Holmes greatest nemesis waiting in the wings the crew had another chance at the 19th century detective. With more confidence Guy Ritchie returns with Robert Downey and Jude Law to create a much stronger story sure to be enjoyed by many fans this holiday season.

We are several years removed from the original story and Sherlock Holmes is trying to unravel his biggest case to date. He has already thwarted the plans of a master criminal several times, but what all these crimes are building up to is impossible for our hero to deduce. Meanwhile his loyal sidekick John Watson is getting married and moving on beyond this life of danger. Holmes convinces his old partner to help thwart his most worthy adversary in one final adventure.

It is worth noting that while Professor James Moriarty is the villain most notably linked with Sherlock Holmes he only appeared in Sir Author Conan Doyle's last story. Conan Doyle wanted to create a formidable opponent for Holmes to end on so he featured a brilliant scholar who could match wits with the detective. 'The Final Problem' became one of the most famous stories and is why Moriarty is as much a part of Holmes lore as Watson is. In a world of sequels it is easy to tell why Ritchie would save Holmes' most famed nemesis for later.

That being said Jared Harris was an odd choice for the great mastermind. For such a major threat they have chosen a relatively small actor, one that comes nowhere near the level of Robert Downey Jr. It is tough to believe the two characters are equal when the performances are not. Harris has full control over the intellectual portion of the character as exemplified in his work from 'Mad Men' he just doesn't seem believable as an imposing threat. It would have been wonderful to see what an Alan Rickman-esque actor could have done with the character he seems to have the perfect combination of controlled anger at his disposal. Similarly Noomi Rapace does little as our heroes' gypsy ally. Short of her opening action sequence she seldom helps develop the protagonist or the plot. It makes you miss Rachel McAdams as the prominent female lead who did little to nothing extraordinary in the first one except look stunning.

The story though bears its success on the shoulders of our hero and as can be expected Robert Downey Jr. once again does a fantastic job as the movie titular character. He was one of the few bright spots from the original and here he does more of the same with a darker twist to the character reflecting the raised stakes. The character is constantly banged up as his tweaks seem to not only reflect his thought process but the danger he finds himself in. His delivery builds upon the originals strengths as he is quick to lay out a subtle jab. Whether it is a physical or verbal one he does so in prefect deadpan form. Just as important to the character's delivery is his relationship with his lifelong friend John Watson once again played by Jude Law. Still a thankless role as Downey will surely outshine him, if not for the set-up and report provided by Law's portrayal of the character it stands to reason that much of the energy in the movie would fizzle. In the first movie most of their relationship was shown through an angry reluctance, there for each other because their bonds had been built over time. In the second story the relationship seems much more reflective as each understands their partnership is coming to an end. Their bond drives a large part of the movie; it helps to heighten the action sequences and is the main source of entertainment through the down beats as well.

Guy Ritchie seems much more comfortable directing this time, while he still uses most of the techniques that cluttered his first attempt he seems more restrained and allows his style to help tell his story rather than using it to gloss over unpolished sequences. The most notable technique being when Holmes slows down the action to predict his enemies attacks. It was used more for the character last time, here Ritchie uses this sequence and the outcome to provide perspective to the story. The action scenes benefit the most from Ritchie’s first crack at the story while the music of Hans Zimmer really highlight what is going on. The bachelor party, the scene on the train, and the climax all become exponentially more exciting than the action beats from the original. In the same breath though the scenes in between the action tend to drag a little bit and while the two leads do all they can to liven up the scenes it still seems like it takes a while to get to each major plot point. 

There are those will argue that this is just another typical Hollywood sequel with more action and less substance. While you can certainly argue the former, the latter seems unfounded. The first movie had no intention of being taken seriously, merely meant to entertain, A Game of Shadows seems much more entertaining than the original in a large part due to the return of the two male leads and the director working hard together to improve their story. As long as you allow yourself to go into the movie with the expectations set from the first movie in the series and not the original stories you should be able to enjoy the movie. It is very much the same type of movie just done a little better. B-

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December 15, 2011
I am keeping my expectations low for this one since I wasn't exactly impressed with the first film. The slo-mo of the action actually bothered me since most Asian anime used that techniqued and perfected it. Good to hear that it was entertaining! Thanks for the review!
More Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Sha... reviews
review by . December 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Being quite familiar with Guy Ritchie’s works such as “Snatch” and “Lock Stock Two Smoking Barrels”, I know he is the kind of director who likes to cater to mainstream viewers. I wasn’t too fond with his “Sherlock Holmes” back in 2009, but I have to admit that it was fun escapist entertainment carried by strong performances from its cast. It was a simple formula that worked that it spawned this sequel “Game of Shadows” as Robert Downey …
review by . December 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I didn't like the original. Why did I think I would like the sequel?
I really did not like the first Sherlock Holmes movie 2009 for many reasons.  I went to see it and was so sorry afterwards.  I don't know what I was expecting but I did not find it entertaining.  I thought it played to freely with the Sherlock Holmes legend and tried to turn it into a video game themed movie.  Now two years later I saw the trailer for the sequel and thought it looked really good.  I read the reviews and some were very good, while some were not.   …
review by . December 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I didn't pick up on it in the first one, but after someone brought it to my attention and repeat viewings....oh yeah, Holmes and Watson are pretty gay for each other in the first film and in this one.....oh yeah it's the whole point why Irene Adler was even in the first movie and why Watson is getting married here, to throw you off.      I really hated making the gay joke above but this running thread in this movie, especially during the train rescue scene is a real distraction.  …
review by . August 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****    "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" improves upon its predecessor in just about every way. Guy Ritchie has dropped the excessive green screen and employment of unnecessary slow-motion (although plenty is still present, just somewhat more, you know, NECESSARY) as well as the miscast Rachel McAdams from the original (who does appear here, but gets killed off early on, thank God). Ritchie seems to have understood what was wrong and what was right about his …
review by . December 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law return once again as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows“. In this installment, a series of bombings across Europe has positioned the nations of the world on the brink of war. Holmes is convinced that there is a criminal mastermind behind the numerous, seemingly unrelated events and he believes it is renowned scholar James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Watson, well-accustomed to Holmes’ eccentric and erratic behavior, …
review by . December 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The title is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and indeed, it’s all about the shadowy arts of cleverness and deception. This is to be expected when you have an adversarial relationship between two supremely intelligent men. I am, of course, referring to detective-for-hire Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), both engaged in a deadly battle of wits in 1891 Europe. They’re each faced with the monumental …
Quick Tip by . December 20, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Guy Ritchie’s indulges in style, fast-editing and tricky camerawork to generate a feeling of tension in the action sequences. It is a well-made film and such formula was successful in the 2009 film, and in this sequel expect more of the same.      The plot in this sequel is pretty simple and offers little surprises. The acting was good as always, but the dialogue does feel obligatory at times and the interactions between Watson and Holmes resemble a married couple.   …
Quick Tip by . December 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Decent sequel to the 2009 hit has Sherlock and the newly wed Watson following Professor Moriarty's trail as he attempts to agitate events that will lead to World War 1. Plenty of what made the first great, but the homo eroticizm between the leads is un-ignorable nor is the fact that the story, while deep isn't as intriguing.
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Director: Guy Ritchie

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