I want to preface this review by saying that I have never really liked the idea of Sherlock Holmes. His way of noticing minute details and then drawing them out to form a correct conclusion is, to me, absolutely preposterous. I can accept ridiculous ideas in films set in ridiculous worlds (like in a sci-fi or fantasy film) but in a setting which is otherwise completely normal and realistic I can’t accept them. So I am already somewhat prejudiced against this new film.
In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows we see the return of Robert Downey Jr’s buffoonish Holmes accompanied by a disapproving Dr Watson (Jude Law). We are also introduced to Professor Moriarty; Holmes’ Nemesis (Jared Harris) and Mycroft; Sherlock’s Brother (Stephen Fry).
The basic plot is…well, practically non-existent. Sherlock somehow discovers that Moriarty is connected to a number of crimes and then goes out to find evidence for this fact. He doesn’t really know what he’s looking for, it seems that only by chance does he actually discover anything worthy of even making a film about.
Despite this, the film is quite enjoyable in a pantomime sort of way. We see Sherlock put in a number of situations in which we are treated to a number of witty lines and a selection of increasingly ridiculous action set-pieces. But the comedy is very hit-and-miss, I found that Downey JR made me laugh the least and Stephen Fry (in his far too brief appearances) made me laugh almost every time; this wouldn’t matter so much if the film didn’t rely so heavily on the comedy which it really does.
The action is pretty good, though it seems that they are only really there to fill the gaping holes in the plot. I enjoyed the twist on the slow-mo fight scenes introduced in the first film, even if they were overused to an extent. Despite this, it all seems to amount to very little more than being a platform for Downey Jr to wear silly disguises and do a funny accent. If it isn’t careful, it’ll go the way of The Pirates of the Caribbean and have increasingly ridiculous plots which are okay as long as Johnny Depp is pretending to be drunk.
The women in the film are underused, Rachel McAdams (star of the previous film) is used only briefly at the beginning and then forgotten about completely. Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo [the original one]) is only really there to further the plot and has almost no charisma at all despite being a quality actress. Dr Watson’s wife (Kelly Reilly) is used only really as a(nother) foil for comedy; e.g being thrown out of a train. It’s all very disappointing.
I think the problems are deeper rooted though. The film isn’t really clever enough to enjoy it on the level of being a mystery film or a detective story and yet it isn’t quite dim-witted enough for you to enjoy it by simply “leaving your brain at the door” and enjoying the explosions. The result is a sort of purgatory where you’re left neither intellectually challenged nor able to suspend your disbelief properly and just enjoy it.
VERDICT – Hit-and-miss comedy collides with an almost non-existent plot and ridiculous action scenes. A pantomime of explosions and silly costumes, at least it has Stephen Fry in it…
Sherlock Holmes : A Game of Shadows is out now in wide release at cinemas.