Big Picture Big Sound

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review

By Joe Lozito

Extreme Holmes Makeover


Sherlock Holmes' motives have become clear - at least those of the franchise bearing the name of the iconic detective. With "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows", Warner Brothers is fully attempting to create a franchise in the vein of "Pirates of the Caribbean". Lucky for them, series director Guy Ritchie shares "Pirates" helmer Gore Verbinski's love of noise, chaos and grime.

Like its predecessor, 2009's "Sherlock Holmes", "Game of Shadows" unfolds in a playfully kinetic 19th century London - the streets teem with horses, carriages, pedestrians and innumerable Dickensian street urchins. Naturally, there is crime. But thankfully, Sherlock Holmes is on the case. And as played again by Robert Downey Jr, with only the most perfunctory of British accents, Holmes is as wise-alecky as before. But this time, he amps up the buffoonery to an almost disrespectful degree. Holmes is less a master than a jester of disguise. It's as though the actor is channelling Jack Sparrow through Tony Stark.

The film is saved from being a total loss thanks to an almost reverent script - by husband and wife team Michele and Kieran Mulroney (who clearly studied) - and the introduction of Holmes' beloved arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. In literature, the Holmes character famously found his match in Moriarty (though he only appeared in two of the sixty stories). Conan Doyle created the criminal mastermind with the express purpose of killing off Holmes (financial woes and an unhappy public would change his tune). With Jared Harris (Lane Pryce from "Mad Men") playing the fiendish professor, Mr. Downey similarly finds his equal. Their scenes crackle with life. Gone is the goofy "bromance" shared with Jude Law's Dr. Watson. It's replaced by a deadly seriousness, and a type of intellectual one upmanship that gives a hint of the film that could have been.

Sadly, a majority of "Shadows" finds Holmes disrupting Watson's honeymoon and being chased by gun-toting goons. This leads to a protracted, pointless battle scene that has as little to do with Sherlock Holmes as, well, this film has to do with Sherlock Holmes. Mr. Ritchie employs variable film speeds and a Matrix-y style to keep things interesting. Sure, it looks cool, and when the technique is used to visualize Holmes' deductive powers, it's makes sense. But it's clear that Mr. Ritchie is throwing every gimmick he can at the screen because watching Holmes run from bullets for ten minutes is simply not interesting.

A final chess match and an homage Conan Doyle's stories provide a nice tip of the hat. But a winking ending and a clear bid for a sequel show the filmmaker's true intentions. Of course, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out.

What did you think?

Movie title Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Release year 2011
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Thanks to the addition of a delightfully sinister Moriarty, the memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective is only slightly less tarnished than in the previous installment of Guy Ritchie's bombastic franchise.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
More in Movies
Big News
Newsletter Sign-up
Connect with Us