Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Image: Warner Bros

It’s safe to say that a lot of us were surprised by Guy Ritchie’s take on Conan Doyle’s detective back in 2009. The filmmaker had seemed to be on an irreversible downward spiral but his Sherlock Holmes was highly entertaining and revealed a great pairing with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  But could he possibly catch lightning twice?

Holmes (Downey Jr.) is doggedly pursuing Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who he believes is behind a spate of politically motivated bombings. His hunt for proof will put himself and his sidekick Watson (Law) in mortal peril and take them across Europe in their attempt to put a stop to the criminal mastermind’s evil plans.

For the most part, Ritchie has taken what worked from the first film and reproduced it. So, there’s more of the crackling back-and-forth between Downey Jr. and Law (not to mention more nods to the fact that it’s clearly a love story between Holmes and Watson). There are more of the punch-ups that take advantage of Downey Jr.’s impressive physicality. And there’s more of the nicely judged sense of escapism. This isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously.

There’s also a marked improvement in terms of the villain. While Mark Strong gave a solid performance in the last instalment, the character was something of a disappointment. It’s a pleasure to see Harris (Mad Men) tear into Moriarty, who’s not given an awful lot of screen-time but makes the most of what he gets. However, the plot itself is somewhat thinly stretched over a 2-hour-plus running time with many of the best moments occurring early on. 

In fact, it’s all a bit stretched. Ritichie seems determined to keep the big set-pieces going on longer than they should. The slow-motion may be striking but several sequences seem to go on forever. There’s also a serious lack of any real tension in the plot (if you haven’t figured out Moriarty’s fiendish plan in the first act you’re not paying attention), and a shocking waste of Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself) as a plucky gypsy (if that sounds simplistic, so is her character). At least she looks like she’s having fun.

And fun is the point. Because as much as the film could have done with a good edit, it’s highly entertaining. Downey Jr. and Law are a fantastic double act and Ritchie’s clever enough to make the most of them.

Verdict: An improvement on the first that has more than enough moments of great escapism to overcome most of its problems.



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