Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 1st January 2012
I thought I quite enjoyed the first movie (by which I mean, of course, not the Basil Rathbone classics of Sherlocks past, but Guy Ritchie’s bombastic 2009 interpretation which first paired Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the crime-solving duo). But with a strong sense of déjà yawn after two hours of A Game of Shadows, I’m not so sure.
The bromance between Holmes and Watson, nicely set up in the first film, here limps along as Watson prepares to marry his fiancée. His stag night is predictably hijacked (whether by Holmes or his new nemesis Moriarty or perhaps even Stephen Fry, it’s hard to know) and off we fly on an adventure that involves terrorist bombings, a train, interminable pugilism, and, redundantly, Holmes in drag.
Ritchie does a few things well in his movies, but unfortunately he then does them to death at the expense of other things, here focusing on slow-mo, graphic novelesque fight scenes (granted, the escape through a forest is spectacular) while sacrificing a decent script and comprehensible plot. When Holmes first speaks of Professor Moriarty “who must be stopped before his evil machinations come to a crescendo”, one’s heart quickens – this is the stuff Sherlock Holmes is made of! – and Jared Harris (son of the late and legendary Richard) is superb as the treacle-voiced villain. But then we are rushed from pillar to post through London’s grimy streets, picking up a gypsy fortune teller en route (Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace) and pausing only long enough for Holmes’ brain to jump-cut its way through a tricky situation about which we are left none the wiser until he stops to talk Watson through it later.
One big disappointment is the usually excellent Downey flouncing around in a one-note performance, and another is the casting of Fry as Holmes’ brother Mycroft, simply because Fry effectively plays himself, while spouting unfunny lines, naked.
But the biggest blow is that the film looks great, has a high calibre cast, and really ought to be carrying this huge legacy into a braver, clever new era. Unfortunately it looks as though Ritchie has simply frittered the gift away.