Bromantic duo Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return for more turn-of-the-last-century capering in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, an entertaining if not completely successful adventure movie.
Holmes (Downey) is still sleuthing, still unwisely imbibing substances, still making flirty-face with Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams). And she’s still working for the mysterious Moriarty (Jared Harris), a man whom Holmes is determined to catch. Watson (Law), engaged in the last movie, is now on the cusp of his wedding. So he thinks Holmes is taking him out for a bachelor party when really Holmes has dragged Watson and Holmes’ brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) to a seedy gambling hall to follow up on a possible Moriarty lead. Holmes thinks a series of bombings across Europe are all related to Moriarty and are part of a plot he has yet to untangle. And he believes a letter he took off Irene might have something to do with it all. So he goes to see the letter’s intended recipient, the fortune teller Madame Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), who works at the casino.
The next day, after a very hungover Watson marries Mary (Kelly Reilly), Holmes decides to pay a little visit to Professor Moriarty and explain, among other things, how Watson is no longer working with him. Moriarty says, essentially, nice try but there’s no get-out-of-scheme-free cards in this game, and so Holmes heads to the train James and Mary Watson will take to their honeymoon to attempt to rescue his old friend from whatever Moriarty has planned. As much as Watson wants to begin his new married life, he decides to join Holmes in his quest to bring down Moriarty.
Shadows is, in some respects, the opposite of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. That movie has less than compelling leads and very little in the way of character development but is a tight action flick. Shadows is looser, not as to-the-point about where its story is going. But it has in Downey’s Holmes and Law’s Watson two characters I’d happily watch have beers at a pub and argue over any petty thing. Harris’ Moriarty makes a believable opponent for Holmes. As hokey as some of their chess-as-metaphor banter can be, it made the entire idea of a great scheme seem more interesting and lively than it really was. And, as dopey and underbaked as some of the character development can be, I enjoyed it — Holmes’ feelings about Watson’s marriage, Moriarty’s motivations, etc. That both work is an example of how a movie can succeed, despite imperfections, if it gets a least a few of the elements right. B
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and some drug material. Directed by Guy Ritchie and written Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney (from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is two hours and nine minutes long and is distributed by Warner Brothers.