Guy Ritchie re-imagined the classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 film of the same name. With Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as his sidekick Dr. Watson, the film was a thumping success taking $524m off of a budget of $90m at the box office. A sequel was almost immediately announced. That sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was released in 2011 and reunited all the major characters from the original.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is loosley based on the legendary Holmes story The Final Problem, the action follows Holmes (Downey Jr.) in his continuing search for the 'Napoleon of Crime' Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). His long-time associate Dr. Watson (Law) is getting married and Holmes asks him to join him on one final mission together before settling down, Watson eventually reluctantly agrees and the two men chase the elusive man around the world getting involved with a gypsy named Sim (Noomi Rapace) and seeing a plan unfold before them that could lead to world war.
The first film took the idea of the super-sleuth Holmes and turned him into an Indiana Jones-style fighting adventure hero. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows does nothing to slow down in the action stakes, in fact it amps it up. If you love the original text, your best bet for enjoying the film is to try and forget that this is based on that work. Once you let go, it becomes an thoroughly enjoyable action-filled romp. Once again the central relationship between Holmes and Watson is the highlight as the two continue to bicker like an old married couple and the intimate scenes between them drip with homo-erotic suggestion.
Harris' Moriarty is a step up from Mark Strong's Blackwood in the original and is the equal for Holmes every step of the way, even tricking him a few times. His rasping voice, like an evil version of his father in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is pitch-perfect as the genius-level intellect character and he plays Moriarty exactly as you imagine him from the original books. His inclusion combined with Stephen Fry as Holmes' brother Mycroft are the best two additions to the cast. Sadly Rapace's Sim is wasted somewhat and you start to wonder exactly what she's doing in the film. Richie's direction continues to impress, with one spectacular scene shot in slow-motion in a forest that has to be seen to be believed.
With an excellent cast, a vibrant and living Victorian London as the setting and enough nods to the original text, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is one of the most fun films released in 2011. It's not nearly as intelligent as it thinks it is, and when attempting to be an out-and-out comedy, falls flat on its face, but it is a fun-filled action-adventure film that keeps you entertained throughout.
Rating: * * * *
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