Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the second installment of director Guy Ritchie's imagining of the Sherlock Holmes world. Again starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams, this new film also introduces Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes, and Jared Harris as the devious Moriarty.
A Game of Shadows finds our hero Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) meeting back up. While Holmes is busy stalking and/or protecting his love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), he disrupts a bomb plot and uncovers clues about a larger plan at work by Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). But more than just a hit or a heist, Moriarty has much, much bigger schemes in mind. By getting involved, Holmes is putting himself, as well as Watson and his new fiance, at risk. But once he begins to unravel the global reach of Moriarty's plan, he doesn't have much choice but to enlist Watson's help. Included in the troupe this time is a band of gypsies, led by Madame Simze Heron (Nooma Rapace) who must cooperate with Holmes in order to rescue a fellow countryman. Also starring is a stable of hi-def Phantom video cameras that capture almost every other scene as a slow-motion chase sequence.
You can't escape some comparison of this movie to other Sherlock Holmes efforts (although I try to balance it out below). After all, it's an adapted character and a borrowed world. Conan-Doyle's books are the jumping off point, but so are earlier iterations featuring Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. And then there's the recent and excellent BBC series starting Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. So what is it about Ritchie's version that sets it apart? Well, the obvious bits include all the no-holds-barred fighting. At some point, Sherlock must have decided that kung-fu was at least as important as statistics, because he has no problem calculating a boot up your ass. Sherlock's deductive skills are still on display, but they're no longer his primary thing, more of a sidearm to his shotgun. And so we find Holmes and Watson once again traipsing around Europe, flicking cigarettes and opening some slow-motion cans of whoop-ass. Is it absolutely silly and a large bit ridiculous? Oh yeah. Does it still look cool? Yeah, it really does. And the overdone action sequences would be fine if Sherlock's mental judo was kept in top form. But it's not. The story is clunky and crudely pasted together, relying much more on wild and almost laughable coincidences more than any real cunning on our protagonist's part.