In December of 2009, director Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Rocknrolla) brought us Sherlock Holmes – an action/adventure period piece starring Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role as the fictional detective created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The film was released when a small flick named Avatar was reaping in gazillion’s of dollars, but it held it’s own and Sherlock was able to rake in half a billion dollars in worldwide box office receipts. With such a response at the box office, we didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to uncover Hollywood’s plan to bring a sequel to our big screens faster than a Watson quip.
The result is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows which opens December 16, 2011. The main components were all back for the second offering. Downey again would play Holmes, the master of disguise with keen problem solving abilities and he would be joined again by Jude Law as his trusty partner Watson, Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler and Ritchie who would again find himself behind the camera.
Picking up on an open ended sub plot at the conclusion of the first film, Holmes and Dr. Watson team up again in an attempt to bring down their adversary, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). They will be aided by a gypsy, Madam Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Holmes’ brother Mycroft (played wonderfully by Stephen Fry).
The plot involves Moriarty’s attempt to start a World War and then profit greatly with his armoury of available weapons. Standing in his way will be Holmes, who seems kookier than he did in the first film, but far less believable. Holmes’ addictions are still diverse (we catch him drinking embalming fluid) and it will take all of Watson’s attention (taking him away from his honeymoon) to keep Holmes from getting himself killed while the two piece together a fairly routine and uninspired plot.
With little story to grip or engross, the entertainment value is going to come from the action sequences and Game of Shadows paints its scenes with a sloppy wide brush. Sequences are stopped, slowed down, sped up and shot with quick zooms which all make for exciting viewing for the first 20 seconds then becomes distracting and overly stylish for a movie meant for the masses. Artillery shells blow away trees and rapid gunfire cuts through a train, but we doubt that either scene will have audiences on the edge of their seats or leaving the theatre in absorbed conversation over the action.
Robert Downey does his best (I suppose) but he has very very little to work with. Law is again a worthy partner, but McAdams and Rapace are wasted in their efforts (particularly McAdams who has so little to do with A Game of Shadows we wonder why she came back at all).
Billed as an action/comedy it is important then too to address the comedic moments of the film. Very little, if any, of the humor worked on a mass scale. The packed house at the sneak preview did present a few chuckles here and there, but hardly a full laugh. The biggest laugh came when a hungover Watson was awakened by bagpipes. Yeah. We know. Hilarious stuff.
With failure in the script writing, the action, the comedy and the wasted efforts of the talent attached all make for a very disappointing film. In fact, we could easily stand on our English soapbox and declare that not only does A Game of Shadows not live up to the fairly mediocre bar set by its predecessor, but it is also easily one of the worst films of the year.