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Film review: ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’

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The fog isn’t only a special effect, it’s a metaphor for the murky motivations and plot in the latest Sherlock Holmes movie.

You might not be able to tell from watching Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but Sherlock Holmes is known as a guy who solves mysteries. The Holmes in Shadows, played by Robert Downey Jr., isn’t so much a detective as a globetrotting action hero, the 19th-century version of Jason Bourne or Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt. That was also the case in Downey’s first outing as Holmes in 2009, but here it’s even more pronounced, as Holmes and his long-suffering sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) traipse around Europe on the trail of villainous mastermind Prof. Moriarty (Jared Harris).

The Details

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Two and a half stars
Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Rated PG-13
Beyond the Weekly
Official Movie Site
IMDb: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Rotten Tomatoes: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Moriarty is known for being Holmes’ arch-nemesis in the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, but Shadows gives little indication of why that’s the case, or even what exactly Holmes and Watson are trying to stop Moriarty from accomplishing. It takes half the overlong movie to discern what the heroes’ goal is, and Moriarty’s motives remain murky to the end. Director Guy Ritchie’s first Holmes adventure was refreshing in its goofy action-blockbuster approach to the character, but Shadows suffers from diminishing returns.

Ritchie relies heavily on slow-motion action scenes, which sometimes look cool but eventually grow tiresome. And the first movie’s technique of depicting how Holmes plans every move he makes before a fight loses its effectiveness when showcased multiple times. Even Downey’s rakish performance seems a little stale, like watching Johnny Depp in one of the later Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Without an involving narrative to support, the sprightly, fun touches just end up as empty gestures.

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