Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My friends, my thoughts on this Sherlock Holmes sequel ‘Game of Shadows’ are nearly identical to my thoughts on the first Sherlock Holmes movie, and if I had my way I would simply cut and paste that review into this, change a couple words and call it day. But I’m not allowed to do this. Director Guy Ritchie just did it, but they won’t let me do it. What kind of custom is that?

Our film starts with us hanging out with Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) who is cruising Chinatown in 1891 London, using his mastery over disguise to pretend to be a Chinaman. It makes very little sense why he’s disguised as a Chinaman in this scene, but I’ve learned to roll with these things in these movies, and hopefully by now, so have you. His main goal is to track down the lovely and duplicitous Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) who apparently has taken to working for the criminal of criminals, the bad man of bad men, the evilest dude on the planet… Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). Whatever her job was for the professor, Holmes foiled it somewhat and Professor Moriarty doesn’t like failure and he doesn’t like loose ends. She was cute too.

But what kind of evil shenanigans is this evil professor up to? It has something to do with the political unrest in Europe at this time, unrest which we know will eventually turn into WWI in about twenty five years and Holmes is certainly on the case. But first things first, and it is the marriage of his BFF Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) to his future bride Mary (Kelly Reilly) that he is mainly concerned about, including the prerequisite stag party. Now a lot of stuff happens in between the stag party and the wedding the next day, such as kung fu fighting, lot’s of slow mo camera work, lot’s of splintered wood, and lots of mayhem and chaos. But it does introduce us to a couple of this movies principles in Sherlock’s older smarter brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) and our female of interest… since Irene won’t be around… Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), a gypsy fortune teller who the evil professor has determined to be expendable. Why does the professor want to eliminate a gypsy fortune teller? We don’t really know right now, and after we find out what the profs endgame is and we learn why, again it doesn’t really make sense in the grand scheme of things, but then I’m not a criminal mastermind so what would I know?

Moving along, Dr. Watson just wants to enjoy his honeymoon with his lovely bride, but Moriarty won’t even let that benign event take place without trying to kill somebody. Why does Moriarty insist on doing these bad things? Well… because… he can. I guess. All this does is bring Watson back in the game, no matter how hard he tries to get out, they keep pulling him back, as he and his boy Sherlock travel across all of Europe, with the gypsy’s in tow, to stop this master criminals master criminal plan. Explosions, splintered wood, slow mo and kung fu shall ensue.

This is basically a rehash of what I said in regards to the first Sherlock Holmes movie, but whaddayagonnado? Personally, I would probably enjoy Downey Jr., Law and Jared Harris in a more traditional Sherlock Holmes film, and I’m pretty sure these actors could pull it off… if not the director… and I think I would’ve enjoyed that movie more than what we have here. Again, the movie seemed to work best when Sherlock was doing Sherlockian stuff, that is using his powers of deduction and observation to solve complex puzzles, with the explosions, kung fu fist fights, super slow mo followed by super speed up just getting in the way. Just so you know, a decent film director can generate all kinds of excitement, and suspense and thrills without using a single explosion or one single scene of slow motion, not that I’m saying that Guy Ritchie isn’t a decent director, the guy made ‘Snatch’ for goodness sakes, just pointing that out.

But then would anybody go see that traditional Sherlock Holmes movie? Yes they would, but not as many who would go and have gone in mass droves to see this Sherlock who’s a mix of McGyver, Bruce Lee, Tyrone Biggums and Madame Cleo. But this isn’t to say I disliked ‘Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows’, just like the first movie I enjoyed it for what it was. Subtlety certainly isn’t one of Guy Ritchie’s gifts as a director and he bludgeons us with so many quick cuts and slow mo’s and explosions and expository nonsense that eventually your brain will be softened, and you will be able to easily absorb the frenetic, overblown insanity that you are watching. It is never dull, that’s for sure, as Downey Jr.’s manic energy makes sure this won’t happen, and on the rare occasions the movie does slow down to try to tell its story… and it’s rare… it can be engaging.

But like I said before, I wouldn’t mind at all if I had seen fewer explosions, fewer instances of this film director showing me ‘his stuff’ and more Sherlock deducing and stuff. I’m not going to get that, I know this, but we can hope for this remote possibility in future installments.

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