Movie Review - Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
By Ryan Mazie
December 15, 2011

Pssst. I could really use a hacker.

Guy Ritchie constructed the visuals of the first Sherlock Holmes largely in the shadows, with a rarely sunny look of an Industrial England. So it makes sense on an aesthetic level why his Holmes sequel would get the elongated, colonized title A Game of Shadows. Having an even shadier color palette with a darker villain and heavier elements (i.e. world war), the film scripted by new writers Michele & Kieran Mulroney is juxtaposed with a lighter tone, finally getting a clue on how to rip the joys out of the detective franchise.

While I might be in the minority, I disliked the first Sherlock Holmes. I found the film to be nothing more than a depressingly stuffy two-hour adventure that cared less about plot and more of how to wring a sequel out of it. However, if the first film was just an effort to build up part two (and three and four and so on…), A Game of Shadows was worth the outcome.

Proving bigger is better, the titular English detective and his assistant finally feel as if they are being challenged.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Holmes, the smart-as-a-whip, martial arts-skilled detective, balanced by his grounded sidekick, Watson (Jude Law). With improved back and forth dialogue (and fist) duels, their relationship this time around is more reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow and Will Turner as Sherlock is even more eclectic in behavior and Watson is showcased as an equal rather than a subordinate.

Noomi Rapace takes over for Rachel McAdams as the damsel not in, but causing the distress as gypsy Madam Simza Heron, whose brother is involved in a devious plan to start war throughout Europe hatched by Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). The most famous villain in the Holmes franchise, Moriarty is a regaled professor with dastardly plans that fit the scale, but not originality, for his genius.

With action set pieces coming just as fast as Watson’s quips, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a big, loud, yet fun affair that unravels enough mystery to keep the audience engrossed. Ritchie’s highly stylized action that is a combination of slow-mo and fast-mo and fancy footwork that’s gritty and adrenaline pumping are varied enough from each sequence that it never becomes repetitive. What is most impressive about Ritchie’s directorial eye is how he manages to make these obviously extremely choreographed fights feel spontaneous, which ups the intensity quotient (something any good fight scene needs).

The most impressive action sequence, among the best of the year, takes place in a forest outside of a weapons manufactory. As our heroes run faster, the bullets get bigger, leading into a beautiful, deadly rain of shrapnel and woodchips.

Downey fully immerses himself into the role of Holmes, having a growing confidence in his movements and dialect, taking his zaniness to a new level that clicks. However, Rapace (in her first American blockbuster after making waves overseas as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish-version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo; the American remake ironically opens four days later), while commanding at first, fades into the background by the final reel. Rachel McAdams makes her impression as an imposing adversary to Holmes in the few minutes she shows up compared to Rapace’s copious screen time.

Will the women in the Sherlock Holmes franchise turn into Bond Girls with corsets? Only time will tell, but it wouldn’t be a half bad idea to add new blood to this light and loose franchise that lacks an over-reaching series arch.

After striking out on the first try, Ritchie, Downey and crew finally hit a Holmes Run.

7 out of 10