While it may seem elementary, my dear reader, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” proves that when it comes to big-budget sequels, more is not necessarily better.
Two years after director Guy Ritchie introduced new audiences to an entertainingly Steampunk version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crimefighter, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
In this tale of international intrigue set in the 1800s, the two continue their masculine minuet, although as the movie opens, there are fresh strains.
To the chagrin of his housekeeper, the forebearing Mrs. Hudson, Holmes is ingesting more stimulants than usual in his quest to make sense of pretty much everything. The far more sane Dr. Watson is on the eve of his wedding day. Kelly Reilly returns as Watson’s astute fiancée and wife.
At the start of this travelogue, bombs are exploding, anarchists are stirring trouble, industrialists are meeting untimely ends, and tensions among nations of continental consequence are mounting. And “Game of Shadows” wisely dispenses with the first installment’s biggest problem early, thanks to the cruel efficiency of professor James Moriarty.
Jared Harris plays the infamous nemesis and master of the global conspiracy taunting Holmes. It’s a disciplined portrait of calculating evil. There are no histrionics to this baddie. But Moriarty and Holmes’ vast chess match grows tiresome as the movie makes its way to the two-hour mark.
Indeed, “A Game of Shadows” is bedeviled by the usual problems that hamper follow-ups. Written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, the screenplay admirably attempts a kind of intellectual heft befitting its hero and worthy of its cast, but it doesn’t find narrative traction.
Instead, Ritchie — an undisputed master of such things — gives us more muscular hurly-burly, more slo-mo and speeded-up fisticuffs, more chases, more … well, more.
“A Game of Shadows” has roiling, occasionally long-winded action sequences. One introduces a dark-haired Gypsy woman named Madam Simza Heron into the conspiracy adventure. In her first English-language role, Noomi Rapace handles the mystery woman with physical aplomb. (Rapace was introduced to American audiences in the Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” )
A wilder sequence finds Holmes on a train, looking not unlike Tony Curtis’ drag persona in “Some Like It Hot,” crashing the newlywed’s honeymoon because Moriarty has a penchant for collateral targets.
Downey and Law remain this presumptive franchise’s draw. Each brings renewed focus to their characters’ singular friendship. Law delivers the notes of Watson’s concern and, yes, frustration. Downey nails Holmes’ genius for observation but also his voracious hunger for a trustworthy audience in Watson.
While this might sound rather serious for a romp, their interplay is a pleasure to watch — and to listen to. A cracking riff has the two differing on Holmes state of mind. “Excited?” Holmes quips. “Manic,” Watson corrects.
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS.” Directed by Guy Ritchie; written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney; based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; photography by Philippe Rousselot; starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly. Rated PG-13, 129 minutes, At area theaters.
Article source: http://www.denverpost.com/movies/ci_19549494