December 15, 2011
It's elementary. If you enjoyed the first "Sherlock Holmes" directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, then you'll likely leave the sequel feeling satiated.
If you hated the first one, you'll probably find so little pleasure in "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" that, sometime around the seventh sadistic action sequence — filmed "Call of Duty" gamer style because it's so right for these characters — you may ponder: Would this movie actually be less aggravating with Adam Sandler in it, playing twins? Or more? And is there any way to find out without causing permanent damage to the medium?
Certainly Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creations have suffered permanent damage thanks to Ritchie's films, just as the recent screen version of "The Three Musketeers" stuck it to Alexandre Dumas without really trying. In the new Holmes outing, Ritchie brings his loutish sense of humor and coldly brutal action sensibility to a story in which Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) foments world war so he can make a killing in the munitions business. Noomi Rapace (of the Swedish-language film version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") certainly holds the screen, albeit deserving of better material, in the role of a standard-issue "exotic Gypsy."
After the bodies have finally ceased piling up, Tarantino-style, Ritchie and his scriptwriters manage a passably engaging final 15 minutes or so. Up till then, however, they twist and turn Holmes and Watson into jokey slaughter machines, their coy, bickering bromance coming off even lamer this time around. Honestly: When you have Moriarty ramming Holmes onto a meat hook and nearly bleeding him to death, a la "Saw" or "Hostel," where in the hell are we?
I don't care about fidelity to the letter, or even to the spirit of the original Holmes stories. I care only about the worth and the results of this Holmes retelling. The cast, which includes Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes, is not the problem here. Nor is the plush late 19th-century production design by Sarah Greenwood. Almost everything else is the problem, and a headache, and, finally, a travesty. If it's an intelligent revisionist Holmes adventure you're after, try "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (1976). There. There's one antidote, at least, to "A Game of Shadows."
'Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows' -- 1 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material)
Running time: 2:08
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