Review: SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 25 December 2011


RATING: 2.5/5

When SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009) ends with a highly-promising note that hinted a greater thing will come, I'm sure a lot of die-hard fans (especially for the movie version, of course) and viewers alike, are anticipating the arrival of Professor James Moriarty in the much-anticipated sequel SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. After all, Moriarty is Holmes' No.1 most accomplished adversary he's ever faced in his detective career. Unfortunately, the sequel fails to capitalize the potential suffers mostly from unnecessarily bloated yet pedestrian script.

In this sequel, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has already hot on his most challenging case ever to investigate a series of bombings that have provoked international tensions between France and Germany. He's already suspecting that it has something to do with the shady Oxford professor named James Moriarty (Jared Harris), but he doesn't have the sufficient evidence to bring him down. Despite all the hard work Holmes is trying to accomplish, Moriarty is always one step ahead and leaving Holmes in constant dilemma from time to time. In the meantime, Holmes' faithful partner Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is busy concentrating on his wedding with Mary (Kelly Reilly). However their honeymoon plan gets cut short when Moriarty has arranged someone to kill Dr. Watson but luckily, Holmes is already there just in time to save the situation. As tension is boiling up, Holmes and Dr. Watson team up again to embark on a quest to stop Moriarty from bombing a Switzerland peace summit that will potentially cause a world war. Nevertheless the key of their investigation ultimately leads to a mysterious gypsy named Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), whose own missing brother is somehow involves with Moriarty as well.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem that bogged down this sequel is the way husband-and-wife writing duo Michele and Kieran Mulroney constructs their screenplay in a clumsy manner. They have botched the potential to hike up the high-stakes tension between Holmes and Moriarty. The mystery is disappointingly less compelling than it supposes to be, while the pace is often draggy and erratic with too many unnecessary distractions and detours.

Despite all the patchy approach, SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS remains quite an entertaining movie. Guy Ritchie's trademark highly-stylized and showy direction is often fun enough to watch for: The opening back-alley brawl which details Holmes' advance mental choreography of fights in slow-motion shots; the fight-and-chase sequence between Holmes, Simza and an acrobatic assassin; the explosive train encounters; and of course the chase sequence in the forest. In this particular sequence, Ritchie has brilliantly played around the high-speed camerawork to great advantage as we witness a series of stylistic slow-motion, mixed with suspended-motion shots of exploding shells and whizzing bullets graced through the trees as well as other objects in such elaborate fashion it's compulsively watchable. And for all the ramped-up action Ritchie has meticulously crafted here, the climactic ending which involves the ultimate square-off between Holmes and Moriarty offer something uniquely different than what (most) viewers might expect. Instead of spectacular pyrotechnics, Ritchie has opted a quieter approach by staging a chess game as Holmes and Moriarty tries to outwit each other before ends up with a battle of mind as they plot out every possible steps of physical moves and counter moves before the real fight begins. Other technical standpoints are also as visually impeccable as ever -- Philippe Rousselot's rich cinematography is eye-catching; Hans Zimmer's strings-laden score are both catchy and majestic; while all the production design, art direction and costume design are simply outstanding.

As for the cast, Downey Jr.'s eccentric performance is as neurotic as ever, while retaining the exciting and hilarious buddy chemistry with Jude Law. Jared Harris is surprisingly well-cast as the sneaky and diabolical villain James Moriarty (Brad Pitt is long rumored as Ritchie's first choice for the coveted role). Noomi Rapace, who is hot from the Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) and its subsequent two sequels, is sadly underused in her first Hollywood debut. It seems that the other female counterparts (Rachel McAdams and Kelly Reilly) in this sequel are all wasted in their thankless roles here. Lastly, Stephen Fry makes quite an impression as Holmes' quirky brother Mycroft.

Now, if there's ever a third SHERLOCK HOLMES movie in the future, let's hope they improved upon this half-baked sequel.

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