Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Guy Ritchie’s take on the classic sleuth is certainly funny and colorful, but relies too much on fists and action than good old-fashioned brain power.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Crime

Director: Guy Ritchie

Actors: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams

Year: 2011

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: United States, United Kingdom

OK, so I missed the first Sherlock Holmes movie, despite my (and most of humanity’s) crush on the droll wit, smirk, and goofiness that is Robert Downey, Jr. The idea of a bromance between Sherlock and Dr. Watson is kind of delicious, especially when played by Downey and Jude Law. But when I saw the commercials for what sure as heck looked like a Victorian action movie, I was kind of baffled and lost interest.

So, now that I’ve seen the overly long, but mostly entertainingly Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, I can say Guy Ritchie’s take on the classic sleuth is certainly funny and colorful, but relies too much on fists and action than good old-fashioned brain power.

The plot, this time around, involves Sherlock being affronted and put-upon by Watson’s announcement that he is getting married… to a woman! Well, Sherlock can’t believe it. What about their grand adventures? Watson may be moving on, but Sherlock is still on the verge of crazy-town, playing the brilliant madman in his flat filled with tropical plants, and creating hilarious disguises, including the you-have-to-see-it urban camouflage (which is guffaw-worthy excellent). Still, when Sherlock takes Watson out for his stag party, conveniently held in a brothel-y saloon where Sherlock can do some investigating, the night of course ends in acrobatic fist fights and an assassin on the loose.

Framing the plot are a bunch of terrorist attacks in Europe. It is unclear who is planting the bombs, but as the violence spreads, Sherlock’s inquisitive attention turns to the sinister Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) . It is just a matter of proof and motive to link Moriarty to the bombings, and he must be stopped! A side plot with a gypsy fortune-teller (Noomi Rapace), and the elusive Moriarty, has Sherlock and posse traveling through Europe to hopefully stay one step ahead of the mad professor.

Good things: OK, not only are Downey and Law easy on the eyes, but they have perfected their bickering BFF banter, making their rapport always fun to watch. Added to the cast of characters is Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, played with literal naked glee by Stephen Fry. Seeing the two men as blood brothers (tiny Downey, and towering Fry) is so ridiculous that it is perfect. Fry is a delight, and I wish that they used him more. Also, visually the movie looks great. Sherlock’s toys, including a very early 1890’s automobile, should set the steampunks in the audience squealing.

Bad things: This may be a carry-over from the first film, but this Sherlock seems to fight with ninja-skills as often as using his exceptional brain. There were few moments to remind us that he is brilliant at figuring things out, making this seem more like a buddy movie than a take on the most famous sleuth in literature. Also, the violence porn actually made my eyes hurt. Ritchie loves the speed-up/slow-to-a-frame-by-frame crawl of everything from a punch across a face to a bullet ripping through a tree. Tone down the violence for violence’s sake, and ramp up the humor and brains. And poor Noomi Rapace. I was totally hot for her as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but she has nothing to do in this film. She is stuck with the straight role, and is conveniently off-camera much of the time, as though she was included simply because they needed a Token Woman.

Overall, I’m sure people will enjoy this latest popcorn-take on Sherlock Holmes. It is breezy and funny… but just remember to rest your eyes occasionally from all the over-the-top violence.


The Blu-Ray release features Maximum Movie Mode which allows you to watch the whole film with Robert Downey, Jr.’s “Picture-in-Picture” commentary throughout (though you may have to hit the fast-forward to skip through some dead air). There are also storyboards, stills, and a bunch of making-of and behind the scenes featurettes called “Focus Points”. Finally, if you have the patience for it, the Blu-Ray can sync to the movie’s downloadable app.


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