After Guy Ritchie’s first ‘Sherlock Holmes’ film it was clear that this wasn’t the Holmes we were used to. Yes he was still manic and slightly off-kilter, but he was also an action star. A rugged presence on the screen who not only solved crimes with spectacular deductive and observation skills, but he also beat the crap out of anyone who stood in his way. Still, he usually thought through each fight logically before it even happened, playing out the scene in his head before he even made a move, but it was clear that this was a Holmes for a newer audience.
Robert Downey Jr. is still a perfect casting choice for Ritchie’s vision of Sherlock Holmes. Downey plays Holmes with an obsessive-compulsive drive, which is admirable. Although, he does come across as borderline schizophrenic most of the time. Even then he’s able to deliver equal parts humor and brilliant reasoning to the part. I still enjoy the new BBC version of Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch more than the Holmes featured in Ritchie’s movies, but that’s simply personal preference.
In ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ we come in on the story as Watson (Jude Law) is about to get married. Holmes is adamant that he doesn’t because it would mean the end to his trustworthy sidekick. Professor James Moriarty’s (Jared Harris) name was teased in the first movie, but he’s the full-fledged villain here. Holmes and Moriarty, like always, become entangled in a game of wits. They go at each other like championship boxers, yet all their significant blows are with minds not fists.
Holmes and Watson soon stumble upon Moriarty’s master plan which could indeed have worldwide disastrous consequences. From there on out it’s a wash of flashbacks, mental visions and action scenes until the credits role.
‘A Game of Shadows’ feels like a summer blockbuster. It’s a fast-paced ride with fights, guns, and more explosions than you’ll be able to count. Ritchie’s directorial style bleeds into this film more than it did in the first one. His action is frantic and may give people a headache trying to follow it. Unless Holmes is thinking in his head about the impending hand-to-hand duel he’s about to have, the action scenes are nigh incomprehensible. This is the way of modern day action movies. Quick cuts, even quicker camera movements and a blurred action that’s almost impossible to get a handle on. Sure it conveys the frantic nature of the scene but there’s rarely a point in the fight scenes where Ritchie allows you to get your bearings and find out exactly where the characters are. Much of this movie completely disregards any sort of geographical space. It’s impossible to know where the characters are at any given moment relative to their surroundings because the editing and camera work are, at times, nauseating.
If you liked the first move you’re sure to like this one too. It’s slick, stylized and full of enough Robert Downey, Jr. to make it worth it. Its secrets are well hidden and it’s entertaining to try and guess what objects or details are going to circle around into a flashback where Holmes pieces everything together, which he always does.