Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Are you sure you want to play this game?,” asks Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), the criminal mastermind who’s confronting his worthy opponent, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), suggesting he stop meddling in his affairs in the 2011 sequel: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It seems Holmes just might have met his match going up against Moriarty who’s his intellectual equal but whose lust for power and capacity for creating death seems to give the Professor an advantage over London’s favorite detective.
It’s been a little over a year since their last adventure together and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is looking forward to his bachelor party the night before his wedding. Holmes decides to mix business with pleasure and has tracked the clues to Moriarty’s latest murder victim to a gypsy fortune teller, Sim (Noomi Rapace), who’s providing some of the entertainment at the party. Knowing the Professor always ties up loose ends, Holmes sets out to save Sim’s life (she knows much more about Moriarty’s plans than she is even aware of).
Together, Holmes, Watson, and a reluctant Sim team up and travel all over the continent, from England to France to Germany and finally to Switzerland trying to uncover Moriarty’s evil plan and stop him. This might just be impossible, however, because the Professor seems to always be at least one step ahead of Holmes at every turn.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an action/adventure sequel which is much bigger and darker than the original, but not better. The film benefits from the wonderful chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law as Holmes and Watson but, unlike the original film, many of the witty and quick lines between the two actors seem forced, flat and not very funny.
One of the strongest additions to the film is Jared Harris who delivers a masterful performance as the villain, Professor Moriarty. Harris portrays Moriarty with just the right mixture of grace, cunning, and intimidation. The best scenes in the movie involve Downey Jr. and Harris confronting each other as Holmes and Moriarty. It’s a shame there are so few.
One of the biggest disappointments in the film is Noomi Rapace as the gypsy, Sim. She has zero chemistry with both Downey Jr. and Law, and her character is incredibly bland. Sim is not particularly interesting, seductive or spunky. It seems the character only exists to help Holmes and Watson get from place to place when they begin traveling abroad. She is nothing more to than a travel guide. What a waste of a talented actress.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows also has a sluggish and unbalanced pace to it. It begins slowly and has an unoriginal fight scene which pales in comparison to any of the fight scenes from the first film. It isn’t until the last 30 minutes the movie finds just the right pace for a thrilling chase scene featuring our heroes fleeing from Moriarty’s men in the woods, as well as playing cat and mouse trying to find an assassin, and the tense showdown comes between Holmes and Moriarty
Tedious and unengaging, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a uninspired sequel which fails to recreate the excitement, humor and fun of its predecessor. It’s only due to Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law and Jared Harris’ performances – and the final suspenseful 30 minutes of the film – that it’s worth seeing, but only at a bargain price.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows hits theaters on December 16, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.