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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

A movie directed by Guy Ritchie

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"Elementary" Plot, Stylish Action, Fun Factor Drive Guy Ritchie's Sequel

  • Dec 17, 2011
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 Jr. reprises his role as the fictional sleuth which was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With this sequel, he makes things a lot more louder (as in more extravagant), keeps the fast-moving style and quick dialogue that kept his fans on their feet. This sequel is Guy Ritchie doing more of the same thing, and this isn’t exactly a bad thing depending on who you ask.

The film begins with Holmes (Downey) shadowing the woman who had seemingly out-maneuvered him in the first film (played by Rachel McAdams who shows up in the film’s first act) as Holmes tries to find clues to the elusive Moriarty (played Jared Harris). With Watson’s (Judd Law) marriage threatening to hamper their partnership, and Moriarty threatening their lives, the two must find a way to foil Moriarty’s plans with the aid of a gypsy woman named Sim (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and prevent a war…

                     Noomi Rapace, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in "Sherlock Holmes 2"

                    Jared Harris in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

                    Rachel McAdams in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

Many would argue just how different and non-faithful Guy Ritchie’s “Holmes” is from the original character created by Doyle and while I would agree with them, there are some things that did make this modern-day “Sherlock Holmes” the same. I believe Holmes was indeed a bare knuckle boxer in Doyle’s original (called a prize fighter in "The Sign of the Four") which makes some sense that Ritchie makes his version more of a martial artist. The original Holmes was also quite fond of intoxicants, extremely intuitive and have uncanny precognitive abilities; but there is just something that bothers me with Downey playing the character almost like a narcissistic, cartoonish clown as he had with Tony Stark in Iron Man. Downey is a terrific actor, but his range is growing to be more ‘for the fans’ rather than him showing his range as a performer.

As for the film’s style, Ritchie uses his usual fast editing tricks and snappy dialogue to hide the weakness of the plot. The film keeps to the style of 2009‘s film, as soon as it finds its footing the film via a ‘wedding’, it goes into hyper drive, as the script by Kieran and Michele Mulroney races to scene after scene as Holmes and Watson are quickly led into one encounter after another, as they are destined to reach the ultimate showdown. There is a lot of action to be had with “Game of Shadows”, and if you liked the ‘anticipation of a fight before a fight’ thing that was inspired by Japanese anime and Hong Kong action films, then you will be happy that there is more of that ‘gimmick’ to keep things interesting. I am rather tired of it, but I guess I should know what to expect with this film. Ritchie also keeps the camera close to give intensity to the action. He keeps the viewer distracted with fancy editing trickery and slow motion to give the film a lot of visual style. Style is one thing, this film isn’t missing, as the film is beautifully set up with designs and costumes that just matches this period.

                   A scene from "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

                   Jude Law and Geraldine James in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

                   Robert Downey Jr. and Rachel McAdams in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

Moriarty is one of the most famous villains in the stories by Doyle despite the fact that he only appeared in two of the original stories. He is the Luthor to Superman, and the Red Skull to Capt. America; he is the one man who can match Holmes wit per wit, and trick per trick. With Jared Harris, despite his limited screen time because Ritchie keeps him behind the shadows, the character is pretty effective as a foil to Holmes’ intelligence. Harris is quite in adding the flavor of peril and mystery that Doyle would be proud. There is also the expected chess game between Holmes and Moriarty, which adds flavor to the film’s final showdown as a subtle metaphor.

Game set and match. So, being a Sherlock Holmes film, how were the twists and turns? Well, the film started out strong with the brief appearance of Rachel McAdams in the first act, but then it becomes real predictable with Ritchie’s over-reliance to the visual manipulations he has been indulging in, seemingly without shame. It also attempts to distract with its style, humor, changes in disguises, sudden revelations, quick wit and dialogue that came dangerously close to becoming incoherent. I had some issues with how Watson and Holmes interacted; it was almost as if they were husband and wife with the way they bicker and argue. Downey is his usual charismatic self, which comes as no surprise and he was able to carry the film. Noomi Rapace was underwritten but fortunately, Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes (and the aged butler) provided some good comedy along the way.

The film feels more like a film like “Snatch” than a film about Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty. I feel that while “Game of Shadows” was not a bad film, but it just does not offer anything new. It seems like if you’ve seen the first movie then you’ve also seen this one. “Game of Shadows” is a tad over directed and at the same time, under scripted. The elements overstay their welcome quickly; Ritchie and company do try to energize the franchise and it is fun, but it lacks the effect of its freshness the first film had reached; however, unevenly.

RENTAL [3- Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows." Character poster art for "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."


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December 20, 2011
you definitely agree with John...I forgive you. LOL. Great review as always.
December 22, 2011
LOL! sometimes, I guess I do. Thanks for the read!
December 18, 2011
I enjoyed the first one so I am sure I will be checking this out eventually, great review WP.
December 19, 2011
By all means, if oyu liked the first one then you will like this one as well. It is basically the same film with little changes.
December 17, 2011
Great review - I didn't like the first one and doubt I would like this one. I love Robert Downey, Jr. but the first movie disappointed me; probably because I've been reading Sherlock Holmes since I was a kid and the portrayal of the character in the movie didn't seem quite right compared to what I picture in my mind while reading the stories.
December 18, 2011
Oh yeah, if you liked Doyle's books then this would fail. This was a dumb-downed interpretation of the Holmes books, not a bad thing depending on who you ask, but it was more or less the same as the first movie. See Mission Impossible 4 instead (cheap plug), I reviewed it too....
December 18, 2011
My hubby really liked the first one and I'm sure he'd like this one; he's not hard to please as long as there's a little action going on LOL - and he would love the Mission Impossible; just read your review, but I hate Cruise so it won't be one for me (I'm getting rather picky in my old age LOL) and thank you Will - I can always depend on you!!
December 19, 2011
LOL! Brenda, if you want something more intelligent than your usual popcorn fare, I suggest you check this out. I don't mind Cruise, but he really isn't that talented despite his marketability....
December 19, 2011
THANK YOU!!! lol someone else who thinks the same way as I do - I've never seen why some think he's all that and talented and what-not - I just can't stand him.
December 20, 2011
savvy? LOL! Did you watch the Rum Diaries yet?
December 20, 2011
No but I did see the new Pirates of the Caribbea; the hubby bought it for me- didn't like it as much as the first one, but it was OK - at least I got to see my man LOL - The Rum Diaries will be a rental when it comes out.
More Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Sha... reviews
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 …
review by . December 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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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William ()
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Please "Like" Film and Movies and Keep the Economy strong....LOL!!      My Interests: Movies, Anime, History, Martial Arts, Comics, Entertainment,Cooking, Things I don't … more
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Director: Guy Ritchie

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