Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows isn’t much of a Sherlock Holmes film, but it’s an attractive action flick unhindered by 3D gimmickry nonetheless. Robert Downey Jr. continues doing that thing that Robert Downey Jr. does, and he does it well; I don’t know of anyone who does Robert Downey Jr. better than Robert Downey Jr.
2009’s Sherlock Holmes was a pleasant surprise considering it was from Guy Ritchie, who’s recent output had been dire to middling. This exaggerated, pugalistic take on the character felt refreshing and the camaraderie between Downey Jr.’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson was enjoyable and sparky. Ultimately the film didn’t have much in common with the source text but it was forgivable for being an enjoyable action romp with an above-average script and performances.
Game of Shadows is largely more of the same, but if there’s anything missing, it’s the brains. Holmes doesn’t seem to do much in the way of actual detecting or deducing, or at least not any that’s above and beyond what Watson manages. The disguises Holmes uses are weak to the point of absurdity and it’s hard to believe anyone, least of all Moriarty, would have been fooled by them.
With Moriarty in the mix there was an opportunity for a story of fiendish complexity but instead Holmes veers too far towards being a drunken, unshaven shadow of what the character ought to be. There are few, if any, piercing moments of genius, no “ah-HA!” moments where the audience, having been several steps behind for the whole time, finally catch up.
So, it’s not much of a Sherlock Holmes film, which is a shame. This isn’t to say it’s not a good film in its own right. The dynamic between Holmes and Watson is firmly in place, and the extra tension between Holmes and Moriarty, plus the presence of a rogue sniper throughout the film makes for an agreeably tense environment. As with the previous film, both script and cast are above and beyond what you might expect from a blockbuster action film.
As for the action, it’s hard to shake the sense that Guy Ritchie is behind the camera with a dial or lever or something, slowing down the action to a glacial pace and furiously masturbating as a bullet slices through a tree and you see EVERY GODDAMNED SPLINTER in glorious high-definition. In fairness to these moments of obvious onanism, it’s a pretty good effect and helps lend the film’s action an Inception-level of class despite feeling a little gratuitious. Aside from that, action sequences are solid and enjoyable.
Overall then, Game of Shadows is pretty good. It may not be as smart as it could have been but with some great acting face-offs, a witty script and action sequences not hampered by having to appeal to a tragic 3D market, there’s plenty here to enjoy.