Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.



  1. Have to agree with you on the story part of it. That was the one thing that lacked big time for me in this film. But I forgave the film for just being fun to watch.

    I can imagine the studios are the ones who have a need to emphasise that the sequel needs to be bigger just for the sake of it being a sequel.

  2. Loved your take, Dan. Having seen the movie, I think you accurately assessed the film. Considering both our time and money may be short, it’s good to find out ahead of time if the film is worth it. Keep reviewing. I’m reading.

  3. I am also a fan of Ritchie’s but I thought the first film was a travesty. It was Sherlock Holmes in the same way that Demi Moore’s film was The Scarlet Letter. In other words, not remotely.

    Having said that, I completely agree with you that much of the second film was more of the same, only….more. I also agree that Rapace was wasted.

    So why do I feel the second movie was better than the first one? Jared Harris. Most every scene he is in is a great one and I absolutely loved the final act of the movie with his character and Holmes facing down each other. The whole Reichenbach (sp?) Falls scene works both for people who have read the stories and those that have not. The final scene in the movie had the whole audience laughing out loud.

    A movie can be decent, but had a bad ending and I dislike it. A movie can be not that good, but have a great ending and I like it. This movie was the latter for me.

  4. Great review Dan!

    With this film all I am looking for is just some good fun. Jude Law and Downey Jr. are one fantastic combo, and I hope this is worth it!

  5. If you look at the film as a good action movie with humor, the ratings go way up. Plus, as you nicely expressed it, Ritchie’s visual ideas for the movie were greatly executed and neat to watch. If you look at the movie as a story to be told or an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, then your opinion is going to be far lower for this movie. Like you said in your first line, “I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.”

    Nice review, Dan. Your writing and drawn conclusions are entertaining to read, as usual.

  6. Great review. I think that Noomi Rapace had a role that works in this film. A sequel could be on the way and she would hopefully take on a more important role.

  7. Good review. I agreed with you almost completely on Noomi Rapace’s role in the film on my review and I wish they would have done more with her.

  8. I will definately be seeing this over the xmas period. I loved the first one and thought it was a really fresh take on the classic character. Glad to hear that the excellent chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law is still there and also that Jared Harris is awesome (as I had hoped). Shame to hear that Noomi has very little to do though.

    Good review and I look forward to ssing it soon.

  9. Yeah, RItchie did get carried away with the slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow moooooooooooooooooooooooootion shots. In my mind it is not as good as the first however it was still entertaning but only because of the two central performances. Superb review.

  10. Hey Dan it’s Josiah from the Rex Theatre 2.0 blog. Doing a joint venture with a friend of mine on this account. Anyway I agree with a lot of your points especially the idea that a sequel has to recylce what the first one did only do it more. More humor, more explosions, more more more. I wish story tellers would take what they did last time but maybe make it more sophisticated, if that even makes sense.

  11. I really liked the 1st one but left the theater with an ‘eh’ feeling with this one.
    I see your points with what your saying but the film just didn’t do it for me this time around. I glad you felt the same way with Noomi Rapace though. I felt she was pointless and nothing but a prop to keep the story going.

  12. I so agree with you about being confused at the beginning. The second half of the movie was much better than the first. Loved Jared Harris as Moriarty and loved the ending. I don’t really care for Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes, but I guess it’s easier to understand what he’s saying than someone who’s truly British.

  13. I see and understand your points in this review and most of it is justifable. I guess i liked the film a little more due to the fact that I am a massive fan of RDJ and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Anywayz great review yo, it was a good read.

  14. I liked this movie more than you just based on the chemistry between Downey and Law. The plot was admittedly nonsensical but I felt that way about the first movie too so I didn’t hold that against the movie.

  15. Hey Danny, I have to say that I totally agree with you on this one, but probably because of of my overwhelming addiction to anything Holmesian (ok, probably not a word) I still loved it. However, if I completely un-bias myself, I think you got everything right.

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