Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows

by Rick Grant
Now that Robert Downey Jr. has established the witty, kung fu version of the famous detective, I can be somewhat objective and not call this a loud, special effects commercial product. The film actually has merit, with cleverly structured dialogue in between the fast-moving stunts.
Downey is in his best shape and able to leap into action the second a thug accosts him. Yes, the film is heavy on pyrotechnics but it’s part of the fun as Holmes locks horns with his nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) who, as Holmes finds out, is trying to start WWI so he can get rich selling his large cache of armaments.
Enter Jude Law as Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ pal with whom he is having a bromance. With only a hint of guy pride, Watson is drawn into Holmes’ frantic search for the truth about Professor Moriarty’s machinations. The two pals go off on an explosive adventure tracking down Moriarty’s stash of weapons.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead. Fear not, Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) is on the case. He judges the case to be a suicide. But wait, Holmes is sure it was cold-blooded murder. It doesn’t take long for the perceptive Moriarty to sense Holmes is on his trail.
Moriarty sends out his hit men to assassinate Holmes every time he goes out. Ah yes, but Holmes is ready for the punks. He uses his martial arts skills to dispatch these goons with fists of steel. His witty repartee is almost as effective as his karate skills. Dr. Watson is getting married and, on the way by train, he has to help Holmes battle the bad guys as Holmes dons his various disguises. It’s mayhem on that train.
This sequel to the 2009 rebirth of the Sherlock Holmes mythology is far better than the original in terms of the script. Of course, the movie is designed to be an action vehicle with numerous explosions and fight scenes for family entertainment on Christmas Day. It’s definitely not Oscar worthy.
Downey is remarkably resilient as Holmes. His banter with Jude Law is snappy and funny. I would compare his performance to Peter Sellers’ in the Pink Panther movies. We already know this commercial film will go on to umpteen sequels as a franchise. It’s only speculation how many Holmes sequels it will take for the moviegoers to tire of them. Downey has already committed to the next wacky Holmes adventure.
Jared Harris, as Moriarty, performed flawlessly as Holmes’ intellectual equal. However, his brilliant criminal mind takes him down the wrong road that Holmes blockades at every turn. Kung fu rules.