The world's greatest detective battles the world's most devious villain in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a flashy, fast-paced action-comedy that never reaches its potential but delivers plenty of entertainment nonetheless.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as the bickering friends and partners Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Watson is about to get married, but Holmes is convinced that a revered professor named Moriarty (Jared Harris) is committing terrorist acts around the world with the intention to start a world war. As he soon learns, Moriarty is just as brilliant, strong and psychotic as he is. Well, maybe a little more psychotic.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is very similar to the original. If you enjoyed the first movie, you'll like this one. If you didn't, you won't. It's as simple as that.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is, like its predecessor, funny and extremely fast-paced. The movie rests largely on the laurels of Downey Jr. and Law, whose chemistry injects energy into even the smallest of scenes. They are great together, their constant bickering at play every moment of the story. Ritchie's frenetic directing style returns, and while some reviews have criticized him for overdoing it in the sequel, his approach doesn't hinder the movie in the slightest. Some of the slow-motion gimmicks Ritchie utilizes aren't nearly as clever as they were when he introduced them in the last movie, but he keeps them in check. However, the heavy artillery battle in the forest looks pretty incredible in slow motion.
The movie is consistently entertaining from beginning to end.
That doesn't mean it could have been better. Harris delivers a fine performance as Moriarty, but I expected more from Sherlock Holmes' most notorious opponent. The blame doesn't fall on Harris as much as it does on the screenplay, which presents an effective but not groundbreaking plot. While Ritchie accommodates their battle of wits to a degree, his characters live in an action movie world; the figurative chess game between Holmes and Moriarty is neither as cerebral or epic as it could and should have been.
This is a poor comparison, but A Game of Shadows bears some similarities to The Dark Knight. Batman Begins is a very good movie, but Christopher Nolan waited until the sequel to introduce the biggest villain and blew audiences away. Ritchie followed the same script and waited until the sequel to introduce his star villain, but unlike The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Shadows feels like more of the same, entertaining, fun and exciting but hardly groundbreaking.
Sherlock Holmes versus Professor Moriarty? That should be groundbreaking. Epic. Amazing.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows isn't. But again, it is thoroughly entertaining. And hardly elementary.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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