Following up on their hit movie from 2009, Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and director Guy Ritchie reteam to bring us “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”. This time around, they’re joined by Noomi Rapace (of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” fame) as a fortune-teller who gets entangled in the goings on, and Jared Harris (of “Mad Men”) as the infamous Holmes villain, Professor Moriarty.
Fans of the first one will certainly enjoy this, while those who weren’t as thrilled with the first offering probably will find their gripes represented here as well. Which is not exactly to say this movie is more of the same – Harris as Moriarty is an excellent addition to the franchise.
Yet regardless of how the new elements factor in, the crux of the issue – to me – remains the same. Your enjoyment of these films will be directly correlated to your tolerance of the directorial stylings of director Guy Ritchie.
The primary selling point for this new Sherlock Holmes franchise is the clever repartee between Downey and Law as Holmes and Watson, respectively. Here they continue their “almost too close to be platonic” bromance and bicker and banter back and forth like an old married couple might. Once again, they’re on top of their game, exchanging lines rapid fire and playing off of each other with charm and wit. Watson is going to be married, and Holmes is his best man, so even before the adventure begins, there’s plenty of comedy to be mined.
Once the adventure does ensue though, there’s a new element in the mix. Jarred Harris’ Moriarty. Harris is excellent in the role, I felt. He’s reserved but not dry, and he projects the requisite level of intellect to be believable as Downey’s Holmes’ equal. Watching the two of them square off was easily the highlight of the film for me, and they’re given several scenes together where they meet and have a battle of wits. Holmes knows that Moriarty is the mastermind behind a string of bombings currently plaguing Europe, but he can’t prove it. As he attempts to stop and/or expose the Professor, their paths cross several times… and their verbal sparring was – I felt – worthy of the legend.
Unfortunately, the charms and talents of the cast are offset by the overall style of the movie. Director Guy Ritchie is not one for hanging out in the background and letting the story tell itself. Instead, the movie is “Style Heavy”, with the action sequences (as in the first movie) comprised of slo-mo, sound effect accompanied, computer aided effects shots as Holmes does his mental appraisal of the situation, followed by a quick cut, rapid fire unfolding of the action as it “occurs”. Personally, I find it to be a detraction. It’s Sherlock Holmes meets “300”, and I’m not very fond of it. I have no issue with Holmes the action hero, I just would have rather seen less stylistic, more traditional action sequences if that was the route they were going to go.
Regardless, there’s more than enough entertainment to compensate and make it an enjoyable outing. Downey Jr is one of the most enjoyable stars of our time, Jude Law is prefect as his compadre and counterpart, and Jared Harris is a more than worthy adversary as Moriarty. Rapace didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but it may just be that she wasn’t given a lot to do. Together the cast are quite an enjoyable ensemble to watch, and it occurred to me that I wished I could see them all reprise their roles in a more traditional crack at this material.
Overall, it’s entertaining and enjoyable, but not too substantive or memorable.