Two years after “Sherlock Holmes”, which to me was the perfect blend of explosive action and detective story, Guy Ritchie brings us the sequel and direct continuation of the story. The new Sherlock is much like the first one, and yet it’s different. Unfortunately, different in this instance meaning not as good.
Great acting is here once again. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law shine as Holmes and Watson, respectively. Without them, I reckon my experience would be diminished and my overall opinion of the film even more unfavorable. The addition of Noomi Rapace to the picture didn’t actually add much, because her character was very basic; she kicks some ass in the beginning, but is later reduced to almost an extra in terms of involvement in the story and she remains rather passive throughout. If they cut her out of the picture, nothing at all would’ve been lost. Jared Harris delivers a compelling Prof. Moriarty, Holmes’ arch-nemesis. Their final “duel” in Switzerland was my favorite scene in the whole film, as sparks were almost literally flying in the super-charged atmosphere during this battle of minds.
The script is still on the level in terms of dialogue, full of refined eloquence making for a most savory experience. As Savant put after we exited the cinema, “Watching ‘Sherlock Holmes’ always makes me want to behave more gentlemanly.”
The action is even more explosive then before, definitely climbing on the scale. Sherlock and his band will go against Cossack assassins, German soldiers, elite snipers, tanks, rail-guns, cannons, … there’s gunfights and fistfights alike, all attractive as fuck to the eye.
So, everything’s good, but the film’s still a disappointment? How come? The couple of minor quibbles I hold against the film are the humor which is sometimes too forced, and the witty banter between the characters which is sometimes pushed too far. At certain occasions, less is more. But these are merely petty defects.
But the major one is the story. Or should I say, lack of it? The first film had a neat plot one could follow, albeit not being privy to all the details and all angles. But it was there. In “A Game of Shadows”, there is a letter addressed to a gypsy fortune-teller. People die because of the letter. The gypsy also becomes a target for assassins. Sherlock saves her, divining the sender of the letter to be her brother. Why is she marked for death, no one knows. Not even Sherlock, though he guesses it must be because the brother told her something he shouldn’t have. Neither the detective nor the fortune-teller know what, though.
Then, Watson and his wife are assaulted on their honeymoon. Sherlock saves them. There’s a bunch of action scenes, which ensue after our party decides to go on a trip over Europe based on Sherlock’s half-formed theories and hunches which can’t be put into a bigger picture. Then there’s the final battle, the revelation where Sherlock explains everything, and then the end.
To put it simply, for the majority of the film the “plot” is actually a series of unconnected events. To put it even more simply, all this felt too goddamn random. But that’s me. You may find it otherwise, or choose to ignore it. For me, that would’ve been unacceptable.
I still give “A Game of Shadows” a relatively high rating, and await eagerly for the next installment in the franchise. Why? Because it was damn fun. The first film set the expectations bar high, and the sequel just didn’t live up to it.