Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2009) 
Reviewer: Rissi C.
Guy Ritchie’s first film back two years ago was not well-received by purists of the Sherlock Holmes literary figure. Most thought it was a degrading picture of the intelligent thinker who Arthur Donan Coyle created decades ago, and as far as critics were concerned, it was basically a waste of good filmmaking. If you disliked the first film, chances are high you’ll detest the sequel.
Following his last case which saw the ruin and death of the formidable Lord Blackwood, consulting detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) has ties to yet another frightening enemy. His ex-lover Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) is back in his life but this time she may have found herself in over her head. The man paying her for seeing jobs to their completion has just changed the rules – now he has her delivering bombs to people whose services are no longer needed. When Irene finds herself beaten, Sherlock learns that Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) is the man pulling the strings. Well respected for his genius and teachings, Sherlock finds himself entangled with this man whose underhanded dealings are nameless to society – one who could be more dangerous than Sherlock bargained for.
Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) has moved out of 221 Baker Street in order to make a new life for himself with his fiancée Mary (Kelly Reilly). Despite everything, Sherlock manages to sabotage Watson’s honeymoon when he appears on the same train as the newlyweds in time to save their lives. Moriarty refuses to leave Watson out of the challenge he issues to Sherlock which in turn forces Sherlock to beg his friend’s indulgence on one last case. Along the way the amateur sleuths pick up the stubborn gypsy Simza (Noomi Rapace) – a woman who is inadvertently connected to Moriarty because of her brother who also has been sucked into Moriarty’s web of games. During his investigation, Sherlock sees to it that his brother Mycroft (Stephan Fry) receives periodic tasks through messages that need decoding in a case that uncovers more than just political corruption…
At the premiere for Sherlock Holmes I knew I wanted to see the movie because it looked like a ridiculously good time. I wasn’t all that thrilled with RDJ in the role at the onset but it wasn’t because I knew that Sherlock was meant to look like someone else or because I thought he was a bad actor – something about the actor just “bugged” me. Nevertheless I put those doubts behind me as I watched the movie and was drawn into some fabulous intrigue and spot-on British humor. This sequel isn’t quite as fun and that comes as a result of Holmes meeting with his infamous nemesis Moriarty (Harris is evil, and quite wonderful stepping into these villainous shoes). The pair of them are matched wit for wit; both are brilliant and therefore don’t make a move without the other counter-acting. As a result, Sherlock’s determination becomes more of a personal battle of intellect.
Everything about A Game of Shadows was done in order to up the game. It was meant to be more of a threatening story; something with sinister undertones that the audience might not shake off. And Guy Ritchie definitely succeeds with that feeling. The tone of the filming seems like there is a chill to the air and some of the story aspects are certainly unpleasant – including a handful of deaths. Sherlock still thinks through each fight or attack as it plays out in slow motion as though in his mind before it takes place in actual time filming. It took me the entire movie to get used to it when I saw it in the first, but now I am quite accustomed to it and think it actually adds to the stories dimension as a way of further showing just how far Holmes' intellectual capabilities extend. In keeping with the prior film, nearly everything is the same as far as the production values go, save for the darker elements to the story. The camaraderie between the characters is hilarious and despite his eccentric personality (possibly more strange than even Sherlock), I got a kick out of the elder Holmes – Mycroft. Likely Stephen’s interpretation isn’t exactly what the original character was like, but he makes the audience laugh and that is worth something. This is where the whip-smart writing comes into play although it is not nearly as comical as before. Law and RDJ are still fabulous together and I love that filmmakers allow for everyone to retain an air of mystery. Even the least significant characters are potentially untrustworthy; Mary has a glint in her eye most of the time that suggests she loves the thrill of a good mystery as much as her husband (despite his denials) and the man she cannot stand, Sherlock himself.


This movie pushes its PG13-rating a bit farther than the first but doesn’t ever get close to an R-rating either. Mycroft walks around in the nude at his home (this insults Mary); the camera barely avoids frontal nudity and does allow for a full backside shot. There are a couple of sensual remarks and a sprinkling of profanity is a part of dialogue (ba****d) but the biggest “show” in the movie is the violence. There are several explosions which throw people, gunfire kills a dozen people. One man is brutally tortured (and nearly dies), two men fall over a cliff and a woman is poisoned. Alcohol is a big part of the film as are a couple of brief drug references.
Although I didn’t watch Sherlock Holmes again before seeing A Game of Shadows, I’ve seen it numerous times and I think what I walked away with was liking them both equally well – albeit for differing reasons. If you have avoided seeing these because you are afraid how it may make you look at the iconic character, I’d recommend you seeing these if you can separate them from the novels and recognize that Warner Brothers has brought to life an entirely different persona for Holmes – one that is way too much fun to miss out on.

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