* Spoiler Free Review
Sherlock Holmes is one of the great characters in literary history, and has been re-invisioned (or regenerated, if you like) seemingly as many times as the Doctor. Guy Ritchie’s film franchise version has dusted off the formula and injected it full of adrenaline, playing up Holmes eccentricities, focusing on his bare knuckle boxing skills, an in general creating an enjoyable event film. Not everyone enjoyed the re-imagining, but I did, reveling in the fun of the first film. (I also thoroughly enjoy Steven Moffat’s Sherlock, which is a completely different take on the character, and just as entertaining.)
With A GAME OF SHADOWS, the ante has been upped, (as indeed, it must with sequels). Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law had fantastic chemistry in the first film as the title detective and Dr. John Watson, and I’m pleased that it carries through here, the verbal sparing and cheeky shenanigans only part of the chemistry these two have created. They feel very much like brothers as well as best friends, and you get the sense that even if the plot was complete junk you’d enjoy hanging out with the pair of them for a few hours. Downey’s Sherlock feels a bit more manic and unpredictable here (some instances work, others–like the scene where he’s drinking embalming fluid–feel a little forced, almost as if he had trouble finding his way back to the role after inhabiting Tony Stark for the upcoming THE AVENGERS.) But Downey is a great actor, and soon finds his way back to Sherlock. But this Sherlock is haunted by Professor Moriarity (a mesmerizing performance by Jarred Harris) both in word and deed. The supporting cast is just as good, with special props for a surprise visit from Stephen Fry, who plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft.
While not complete junk, the plot is overreaching, creating a global conspiracy that has our heroes traveling all over Europe. While this definitely falls under “upping the ante” it detracts from the very cool London that housed the first film, and Sherlock feels a little bit out of his element in parts. For all his schemes and wheels within wheels, Moriarity’s end game was telegraphed midway through the film, and felt recycled at that. Not much surprise there.
A note of delight to the climax of the film, which literary buffs will recognize from Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, and the sheer genius of the ending. Bravo! Bravo! I say!
In short, I enjoyed A GAME OF SHADOWS, and had a great time at the theater. I don’t believe it was quite as good as the first, but it’s still a solid film and well worth watching. I just don’t know that it has the same re-watchability as the original SHERLOCK HOLMES.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS B+