Aug 18, 2012

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) has been away from his old friend Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) for quite some time since the last film. When Watson finds Holmes to break the news he's getting married, Watson is immediately roped into Holmes' latest mystery of murder and mayhem. Holmes' heartthrob, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) finds herself in over her head while doing sinister deeds for her boss, Professor James Moriarty and is quickly killed. Spoilers, I know, but it happens in the first few minutes. Now the matter between Holmes and Moriarty isn't just a business of law and justice... IT'S PERSONAL!

Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr., and Rachel McAdams steal the show. It's not even close how much these three overshadow everyone else. Jared Harris's portrayal of Moriarty and Kelly Reilly playing Watson's wife, Mary have their moments of excellence, but my feelings for them throughout the film are very hit and miss. I definitely never looked at Jared Harris (who I'll always correlate with his character from Mad Men, Lane Pryce) as a dubious and menacing Moriarty. Stephen Fry was great given what he had to work with, but again, wasn't on the same level as Law, Downey or McAdams. The real drop-off in acting was Noomi Rapace, who drew no interest at all from me in her gypsy character, Madame Simza Heron.

Everyone who saw the first film (My Review Here) and remembers such colorful but dubiously fake scenes like the enormous boat fight can expect more of the same in this film.There was so much green screen and CGI in Game of Shadows, I'd be surprised if filming ever left the studio. On the plus side, there's plenty of slow-motion fight scenes where Holmes breaks down what attack he's going to use and why, which I really liked from the first film and has been a long-running cinematic device by Guy Ritchie going all the way back to Snatch. Maybe it was utilized in his 1998 debut film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well, but I can't remember.

While the plot was engaging and fast-paced, I wasn't really drawing me in and felt like just one action scene crammed back-to-back with another action scene. Any lull in the pace that should have been used to further characters or better tell the intricacies of the story were really only utilized to set up the next round of shootouts or fisticuffs. by the end, I was mentally exhausted and my brain was pretty much turned off. Despite being the greatest detective in literary history, RDJ was just playing a heroic, British Indiana Jones of sorts who liked dressing in shoddy disguises, including appearing in drag. That was kind of funny, but at the same time I got the feeling it appealed more to a British demographic of humor than my own desensitized American humor. When the end came I thought it was a rush-job, but at least Guy Ritchie makes an attempt at showing what a brilliant detective Holmes is as he mentally squares off against Moriarty. Wasn't sure if this scene was too little too late, but the closing minutes of the film definitely left a good, sweet, candy-like taste in my mouth when thinking about the overall nature of the film.

Some highlights of mine when watching the film that you should look out for include the following:
  • Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes' brilliant chemistry in their scenes together.
  • Introduction to Moriarty
  • Holmes vs. The Asian Assassin
  • The closing scene of the film.

While the acting was all over the place - up and down, depending on who was on the screen, the acting choices were iffy, and plot felt more like action fanboy pandering over the intellectual counterpart that is the BBC television series, Sherlock (My Review Here), I liked Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It was far from a perfect film and my expectations were a little too high given the TV series I very recently dove into, but as far as tune-out popcorn action films go, this was pretty fun. There was the right amount of comedy and fights to keep a lot of people satisfied, so the only real thing that hurt it with this taken into account would be the run-time. There was just too much action! This 2 hour film could have definitely cut fifteen minutes minimum somewhere. My overall rating...

3 / 5

It's not a film I would buy blind, or surprise someone by gifting to them without knowing they've liked it, but it's a perfectly acceptable film. It's the kind of movie that'll wind up being played on HBO, Starz, or Cinemax at least once or twice a month in the next year or two, and people will have no problem sitting around and watching it start-to-end, especially people who are vacationing and sitting around in a hotel room. If you can set your expectations low going into it, give it a rent and I'm sure you won't regret the experience.

images taken from Amazon and the movie's official website