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After the first Sherlock Holmes film enlivened audiences to Guy Ritchies revised version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eloquent super sleuth, now given to over the top eccentricity, catty banter and an anachronistic style of fisticuffs, a sequel was somewhat inevitable.
Like the original; what remains of Conan Doyles actual source material is but the bare bones, visible through character names and the mere wisp of a plot, as instead we’re transported to a lively take on Victorian Britain where Holmes is on the trail of his Nemesis Professors James Moriarty (glimpsed amidst shadows in the original) played with malevolent reservedness by the excellent Jared Harris.
The plot then deviates and spends the opening act acquainting us with Holmes distaste for his soon to be retired colleague Doctor Watson’s wedding plans via a snippy, fighty stag party, before hooking back into the over arc of Moriarty’s plans to profiteer from a European war of his engineering. And his desire to do over good old Watson on his wedding night to show Holmes who’s boss.
There was something of relative significance about Noomi Rapace’s Gypsy fortune teller having an Anarchist bomb building brother squeezed in there somewhere, but largely the second Holmes adventure is composed to two camp gentlemen frolicking across Europe in an attempt to stop the sneering villain from completing his master plan and setting off a war. When the pair aren’t cross dressing, bickering or shooting up Victorian railway mahogany they’re following shallow leads in a detective story that’s largely abandons detecting in favour of a good old scrap.
There’s plenty of bullet time action punctuating Holmes and Watson’s asinine banter, if anything the films so heavily stuffed with slow-mo action set pieces the Wachowski siblings must be shaking their heads with woe. It’s not that the fight scenes aren’t aesthetically pleasing to look at, rather the conceit of modern cinema seems to be the further removed from the action we are, the less accessible it is, the better. Wrong! I felt bored and removed and at times the cutty nature of Ritchies Direction became so regularly choppy that it lost any novelty it had an entire movie ago.
The films saviour is the occasional quip distilled from the oodles of over the top banter between Holmes and Watson. Downey Jnr. and Law have genuine chemistry, and although that chemistry is being flogged like a dead horse, it’s hard to ignore that the pair spark and on screen charisma. Jared Harris steals the show as a much more in character Prof. Moriarty. His face-off’s both verbal and physical with Holmes are properly compelling as the actors eloquent chilliness makes him a perfectly matched evil calculating Yin to Holmes Yang.
Stephen Fry provides some light comedy relief as Holme’s elder brother Mycroft and sadly Rachel McAdams is dispensed with all too soon. But most puzzlingly was the inclusion of Noomi Rapace in the rather large marketing campaign for this film, to then relegate her to the doldrums of the periphery. Her obvious acting talents are wasted in what is more of a ‘getting to know you’ for anyone who hasn’t seen the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and needs sold on her mainstream marketability.
Holmes 2 tends to ramble on well past the hour and a half mark and it’s a pity someone didn’t take the scissors to it for a more concise affair with no lags in the swashbuckling. Alas the plot while thin, is over long and the interplay between the cast and somewhat predicable action can only entertain for so long before it feels very much like a broken down record.
I’d like to have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but like many of it’s Hollywood contemporaries it favours style over substance and what it lacks in plot and direction it over compensates for with the continual bombardment of camp squabbling and pretty looking action sequences. I have no doubt it will be loved and have a wealth of sequels and a reboot, but I’ll be sticking with the Literature thanks. Or better yet the Beeb’s Sherlock with Cumberbatch and Freeman.Tags: sherlock holmes: a game of shadows