Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows–Guy Ritchie Directs Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law

Director Guy Ritchie successfully brought Sherlock Holmes back to life two years ago with Robert Downey Jr. adding a winning manic twist to the iconic title role. After earning more than $500 million worldwide, Ritchie’s relaunch has now officially become a franchise: the director and stars Downey and Jude Law have returned for “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” with more installments apparently on the way soon enough.

The new edition, preordained as one of the top earners of this holiday season, is exactly what fans of the first film have probably been hoping for: more of the same, only bigger.




As before, this Holmes is not just an eccentric, brilliant detective—he is also an action hero, unafraid to use his fists to get at the truth, not just his brain. This Holmes has something akin to Jedi reflexes and is undoubtedly the most violent Holmes ever brought to the screen (although the violence seen here is all Ritchie’s trademark slow motion stuff, highly stylized).




Also as in the 2009 film, Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Law), enjoy a distinctly homoerotic camaraderie. This aspect is heightened in “A Game of Shadows” when Watson gets married and goes off on a honeymoon, thus enraging Holmes, who of course winds up following along and bringing trouble with him.




Most of the Holmes–Watson banter this time feels slightly forced, and Ritchie sometimes makes the men’s romance overly silly, as in one weak scene toward the end with Holmes nearly dying and Watson turning despondent.




Rachel McAdams is back as Irene Adler, an American in London who had a thing for Holmes in the first film. Her role, which previously was something of an annoyance, has been substantially reduced.




Adler disposed of, a new female tagalong is thrown into the mix, the gypsy fortuneteller Sim (Noomi Rapace, star of the original “Millennium series”). Rapace actually fares worse than her predecessor, unable to bring much feeling or spunk to this very limited but ever-present role.

The franchise’s attempts to be both a period piece and a modern-day action film are still a bit jarring, as in intense fight scenes that are accompanied by nineteenth-century banjos and fiddles from Hans Zimmer.

But Downey—looking more haggard than ever, yet supremely comfortable in this role—does his best to smooth things out with his subversive sense of fun.

What is new this time is the entrance of another key character from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories: Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris from “Mad Men”), who is known as Holmes’s intellectual match.

Moriarty is essentially a terrorist in this film, determined to start the first “war on an industrial scale” so as to make millions off the munitions he has produced and is poised to sell.




Harris is well cast as Moriarty and will hopefully be back for the inevitable “Sherlock Holmes 3.” He makes the perfect foil for Downey, with a quieter, more controlled performance meant to convey a deeply twisted mind and worldview.




More Moriarty would have been welcome in this film, which meanders and runs a bit long. Ritchie and his writers, Michele and Kieran Mulroney, keep Holmes and Moriarty too far apart for far too long.




But when the foes finally face off over a chilly game of chess—Ritchie’s best sequence this time out—it is worth the wait.




The director pulls everything together and ends the film on a high note, neatly setting up the next round.




Holmes purists will continue to be disappointed, even infuriated: any sense of a classic mystery story has been completely jettisoned. This is pretty much James Bond set in the 1890s. The international locations this time—with the investigation, such as it is, taking Holmes and Watson beyond London to Paris, then Switzerland—are reminiscent of the basic Bond formula of a series of set pieces in glamorous, exotic locales.




New Holmes fans, however, will have no problem with any of this. They will find “A Game of Shadows” to be a more-than-serviceable second time around.








Sherlock Holmes – Robert Downey Jr.


Dr. John Watson – Jude Law


Sim – Noomi Rapace


Professor Moriarty – Jared Harris


Inspector Lestrade – Eddie Marsan


Mary Watson – Kelly Reilly


Mycroft Holmes – Stephen Fry


Irene Adler – Rachel McAdams


Col. Sebastian Moran – Paul Anderson


Claude Ravache – Thierry Neuvic


Mrs. Hudson – Geraldine James








A Warner Bros. release.


Directed by Guy Ritchie.


Written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney.


Produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin.


Cinematography, Philippe Rousselot.


Editing, James Herbert.


Original Music, Hans Zimmer.




Running time: 128 minutes.