Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Slight but entertaining sequel from Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law
Guy Ritchie’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes was considerably better than could reasonably have been expected from the fading and formerly feted Lock, Stock director. Ritchie and his writers successfully pulled off a tough balancing act, rooting the character in his famed deductive method while satisfyingly delivering in the action and humour stakes, and star Robert Downey Jr completed his phoenix-like return to mainstream popularity with his charismatic performance. It’s perhaps not altogether surprising then that this sequel - subtitled A Game of Shadows, presumably because ‘2’ wasn’t deemed spooky enough - is not quite so successful.
The film begins by quickly re-introducing the key characteristics of this Holmes (disguises; ability to foresee a fight in his mind; sardonic wit) and reveals the face of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). But this swift and efficient opening is unrepresentative of what follows; Game of Shadows is a sluggish and unwieldy film, in which for a long time there is no clearly discernable plot. Michele and Kieran Mulroney’s screenplay is built around several key action sequences, and Ritchie busts the lid on his big box of CG effects to ensure they go off with a bang, but there is a distinct gap where a solid story – and more significantly, some solid detective work - should connect these events together. There is still much to enjoy though; the ‘old married couple’ relationship between Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) remains a great source of fun, Stephen Fry gamely turns up as Holmes’ older brother Mycroft and the action is effortlessly carried along by Hans Zimmer’s jauntily atmospheric score.
But this story should really be about the battle of intellects between Holmes and Moriarty, and apart from one excellent moment when Moriarty decisively outwits Holmes, the script gives little attention to the convincing development of that conflict. Ritchie is smart enough to pull out some effectively Holmesian twists in the film’s conclusion, but in terms of continuing the balance achieved in the first film, it is a case of too little, too late.