Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

All the familiar faces return for this, the second installment of Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes franchise.  Robert Downey Jr. once again parades around nineteenth century London as well-to-do-and-terribly-unhinged-genius Sherlock Holmes, dragging Jude Law`s clever but nevertheless secondary Dr. Watson along for the ride.

A Game of Shadows is a somewhat darker film than the first as actor Jared Harris is introduced as Professor James Moriarty, the sinister and consistent nemesis of Holmes.  Noomi Rapace (Sweden`s own Lisbeth Salander) also joins the cast as a gypsy fortuneteller and intermittent anarchist who helps Holmes and Watson to discover Moriarty`s plans.  But perhaps my favourite of the new introductions is Mr. Stephen Fry himself as Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock`s older and well met brother.  Fry`s Mycroft injects a bit of well needed levity into the otherwise serious proceedings.

The second film opens (as with the first) mid-action as a package is being delivered on behalf of the Professor.  Rachel McAdam`s Irene Adler returns for the first part of the film, helping to tie the action together and provide some motivation for the actions of Holmes that are to follow.  Believing Moriarty has some diabolical scheme in place but unsure exactly what it may be, Holmes visits the professor at his study and the games begin.  Literally.  There are actually three points in the film where they play chess.  No joke.

While there are a few sequences where I think the action could have been reigned in a bit (Ritchie hands too long on a slow motion shot of something exploding or takes too long to set up that a cannon will be firing) the film`s pacing was generally good.  It was enjoyable, if a little far fetched and the mystery was obscured enough by various red herrings to keep me from guessing exactly what was about to happen.  As always Downey and Law work well together and their relationship is most certainly the high point of the film.  Rapace`s character was a little two-dimensional for my liking but she did her job and was not distracting.  Harris posses a formidable foe in Moriarty and while there are many actors who could have effectively played that part I think he does a decent job.

Fun, fanciful and free-wheeling, this film is certainly a respectable sequel.  Not as good as the first but enjoyable nonetheless.

My rating: 3 out of 4.

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