Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, and Kelly Reilly
Director: Guy Ritchie
Rating: Six of Ten Stars
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (Downey and Law)track and fight anarchists and Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarity (Harris) across Europe in a desperate bid to stop them from triggering war on a global scale.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" picks up where the Downey and Law's first outing as Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary characters left off and carries forward along the trajectory of that first movie--the action is wilder and well over the top, and the scope of what's at stake if Moriarity bests Holmes has likewise been ratcheted up. Basically, if you hated the first movie because you felt it wasn't "Sherlock Holmes", you're going to hate this one.
Me, I hated the first movie, because director Guy Richie didn't seem able to tell a story, which is odd because he seemed pretty good at it with his early films like "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels". And then there was the moronic way he and the script-writers chose to establish Holmes' prowess as a boxer and thus showed Holmes to be a bit of dolt at the same time--which he possessed in the Doyle stories, as those who paid attention to them rather than old Universal Pictures films or British TV shows would know--and the painful overuse of slow motion action sequences.
While Richie still made an obnoxious overuse of both slow motion and still-frame shots during action sequences, his story-telling was a little less muddled because the story really wasn't all that complicated and he didn't inadvertently paint Holmes as an idiot by having him engage in self-destructive behaviors beyond what we're used to from the Doyle stories and other films.
The acting was serviceable all around, and neither Holmes nor Watson were the exclusive butt of jokes; like the first Downey/Law pairing, one can actually understand why Holmes keeps Watson around... although I did find myself wondering sometimes why Watson puts up with Holmes. The comedy in the film was balanced nicely with action sequences, and it a very entertaining movie over all.
It is, however, an action film and not a mystery movie. There is really no mystery that Holmes is trying to unravel, but he is instead trying to outmaneuver Moriarty and the evil genius' master plan. The exact nature of that plan is hidden for a time, but it's not really relevant what Moriarity is up to when it comes right down to it. All in all, it's a film that is probably more entertaining if you watch it with the attitude you might watch a Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle, or maybe a James Bond movie.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is a rare sequel that's better than the film it follows. But if you want "classic Holmes", you're better off with almost any of the Holmes' films I've written about here.