Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

It doesn't seem like long since Guy Ritchie teamed up with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law to bring Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detectives, Holmes and Watson, back to the big screen but no less than two years later they're back with a sequel, Sherlock Holmes: (clichéd subtitle alert) A Game of Shadows.

Whilst the first film looked at the dark arts at work in the British Parliament, the second sets Holmes and his long suffering companion, Watson, on a case of an arms deal and the impending threat of a world war orchestrated by Holmes' intellectual equal, Professor Moriarty . The pair are joined by a young radical fortune teller, Madam Simza (Played by the original 'Girl With The Dragon Tatoo', Noomi Rapace).

For some Sherlock Holmes purists, the mere thought of a sequel to Guy Richie's first film may be hard to handle with the director's action-packed approach splitting opinions. However, Richie does well, directing in a style similar to the first, bringing a vibrant energy to the action set pieces and fight scenes. Richie uses a diverse range of techniques from his use slow-motion and by breaking the action scenes down step by step. He appears to be completely comfortable in the action-adventure genre, giving the public school boy adventure film a much needed kick of life and energy. This varied style is showcased particularly well in several set pieces including a swashbuckling set piece on a moving train and an action packed shoot-out at an arms factory.

However, the real fun of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, does not come from the action but from the relationship between Downey Jr.'s Holmes and Law's Watson. Holmes' thoughts on Watson's relationship with his wife provides some humorous moments including her being thrown from a moving train (trust me - it's funnier than that suggests). The pair share great on-screen chemistry and would now be regarded as one of cinema's finest 'bromances'.

Downey Jr. is wonderfully over the top and at points appears to be channelling Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. He brings a hugely watchable manic energy to the role, convincing as the hyper-intellectual but also in the more action heavy scenes. Unfortunately, an attempt to give Holmes an emotional motive (through the murder of Irene Adler) falls flat and eats up a large chunk of the two hour plus run time. Holmes should not need an emotional motive, the love of the game should simply be enough for the character. Jude Law breathes life into the role of Watson and manages to prove as equally entertaining as Holmes.

Jared Harris proves to be menacingly camp and well cast in the role of Holmes' greatest rival, Professor Moriarty, however the character suffers from poor development. Considering, Moriarty is the most iconic villain in the Holmes-canon and an intellectual equal to the detective, little is done to utilise the character apart from a heavy-handed symbolic chess game, followed by a physical fight between the pair. Given the fairly lengthy duration of the sequel, the character deserved more attention. Noomi Rapace's character also suffers from a similar problem, often fading into the background whilst sharing the screen with Holmes and Watson.

Stephen Fry makes several entertaining appearances as Mycroft Holmes, although feels slightly shoehorned into the film. However, Fry proves a fun addition to the cast and even goes to the liberty of taking his clothes off, which really wasn't necessary (there are some things you cannot unsee).

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a highly entertaining romp, despite a somewhat erratic, unfocussed plot and some poorly utilised characters. However, Richie directs with style and the performances, in particular those from leads, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, make this a worthy and enjoyable sequel.

Rating: 3.5/5 
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