Genre: Victorian thriller - the sequel
The Pitch: Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) sets his end game in play with acts of terrorism across Europe. The game is afoot as Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is once again on the case with the help of his comrade Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) as the two try to foil Moriarty's sinister plan.
Money Shot: Fleeing Moriarty and the German Army, Holmes, Watson and a band of gypsy anarchists including Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace) make a mad dash through the woods to meet up with a train. Using hyper-action slow motion and amazing sound effects, trees are ripped by stray bullets. When the escapees get closer to freedom, the soldiers bring in the big guns. Soon the woods explode as cannon fire starts to rain down on them.
Best Line: As with the first movie in the series, Holmes has the best lines. Talking with the soon-to-be groom, Watson about his upcoming nuptials, Holmes describes his bachelorhood by stating, "Perhaps its better to die alone than to live in purgatory." Moriarty's recent attack has the nations on the edge and borders have closed leaving Holmes without legal means to uncover his plans in Germany. The gypsies secure horses to take them on their journey but Holmes' uneasiness with horses can't be ignored. When given a horse to ride, he declines and explains, "They're dangerous at both ends and troublesome in the middle."
"I have neither kith nor kin in England" - Sure, those were Dr. Watson's words in A study in Scarlet, but no more. Watson finally marries his sweetheart Mary (Kelly Reilly). Holmes planned the bachelor party but without revealing too much, its clear his mind was elsewhere. Sherlock's brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) illustrates the utility of having a reliable sibling. During most of his brother's plans, Mycroft lends a perfectly timed gloved hand.
Super Sleuth or Super Thug? Love it or hate it, the new Holmes is a brawler. On par with his brilliant mind the crime solver doesn't shy away from a round of fisticuffs. From the opening sequence to the ending credits, Holmes is involved in six rumbles, including one deductive sequence shared between the sleuth and his foe Moriarty. As with the first film, it takes a minute to get used to seeing an iconic character like Sherlock Holmes bruised and battered. In Game of Shadows, he sports a couple of cuts, a black eye and other severe injuries that would spell the end of any other man. But I guess it goes without saying that Holmes is no ordinary man.
Master of Disguise: How many looks does Sherlock Holmes have - nine. For a film that lasts 129 minutes, that's a change every 14 minutes. Holmes cleverly experimented with illusion disguises to meld into his room surroundings that is simplistic but pretty ingenious. Add in some unconvincing guises such as an inebriated Chinese man or Victorian woman riding on a train, you get some chuckle moments, but no best makeup nominations for award season.
Blast Zone: With a plot focused on acts of terrorism, no surprise there's a lot of explosions that keep pace as the story unfolds. I counted 11 explosions that include everything from improvised explosive devices to concussive turret projectiles. The damage the bombs produce make for some spectacular scenes, especially in slow motion.
Bottom Line: If there's one director who knows how to frame a Britt, its Guy Ritchie. With a fair mix of grit, pomp and panache Ritchie along with writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney again transform Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary character into the likeable, every man super detective.
The likability of Holmes is solely due to Downey who adds a weathered, but cleverly veiled face that builds upon the eccentric nature of his seemingly flawed but limitless genius. Slowly Holmes matches wits against Moriarty and their crazy, international chess game ensues, the film starts to just get weird. Their tete-a-tete like any feverish chess game takes place several moves ahead so you don't really know where its going until the act is revealed. This is smart to keep the audience guessing Moriarty's ultimate plan and can wondering if Holmes can keep up, but adds lull points to the plot. So much so you begin to lose interest in the elusive core of the story, and more concerned with when this farce will end. The later issue brings forth a critical problem with Game of Shadows, focusing more on developing Holmes' bête noir Moriarty through his incendiary nature and gives very little exploration into the man to make us care aside from his ability to constantly confound his nemesis. Ultimately you just go, who cares? If not for some well choreographed fight and chase sequences, a couple of cool "things go boom" scenes and Ritchie's signature hyper-action camera magic, this raspy but comically prim thriller would stall midway through the ride.
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