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SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

SYNOPSIS:
After a series of shocking bombings around Europe, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) is on the scent of a plot that his arch enemy Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) is cooking up. With the help of an anarchist group, Moriarty wants to incite Europe to war – while he is busy buying up weapons manufacturing companies. Meanwhile, Dr Watson (Jude Law) is about to get married and the two friends end up at an underground gentlemen’s club, where Sherlock and his brother, Mycroft Holmes (Stephen Fry) toast Dr. Watson on his last night of bachelorhood – and pick up the trail of Moriarty when meeting Sim (Noomi Rapace), a Gypsy fortune teller, who knows more than she is telling. Their investigation leads Holmes, Watson and Sim across Europe. But Moriarty is always one step ahead as he pursues a plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Oh dear. Guy Ritchie has been bankrolled to pillage Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective once more, despite the raspberries from critics two years ago, and is as determined to present Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as figments of his own imagination, ripping off their names and reputations.

The essential point of differentiation in today’s cinematic world is the Holmesian style – it is the uniqueness of that world that offers a decent filmmaker scope for good work. Ritchie’s Holmes and Watson are totally antipathetic to the original characters. There is only the shadow of their spirit in this film, but I’m sure that’s not the reference intended by the title.

It would be as boring and pointless as much of the movie ends up being to enumerate all the mis-matches to the original characters and stories. In fact, if we ignore the fact that the film is inspired by Sherlock Holmes, it might be a more useful way of assessing the film.

OK, well the bad news is that even with that proviso, we find the film wanting. Ritchie is such a show off he gets in his own way. Holmes is a fast talking, ridiculous buffoon, a childish savant perhaps, who has no shortage of self image. That ego often shows up as a smugness which makes him less a figure of brilliant deduction than a pompous ass. He and Watson go through the film trying hard to raise a laugh – which they sometimes do, true enough, although not enough to make the film work. There’s too much violence and mayhem.

Watson, as poor Jude Law is directed to present him, is – for the most part - an appendage used to manipulate the audience and upbraid Holmes. But at least he has a chance to be off-beat charming, which Downey Jr does not. There’s the proof of Ritchie’s major error of judgment; Downey Jr is one of the most charming actors of his generation, capable of twisting us round his little finger. Yet Ritchie fails to make use of this.

He has placed two contemporary characters in the perfunctorily set up 19th century, added Stephen Fry in the nude for sheer effect (why, Fry?) and stomped all over the literary tradition that has made millions of fans. They won’t be pleased. Maybe Ritchie’s fans will find it all worth while.

For me, though, Ritchie’s many cinematic excesses don’t make up for the lack of a coherent story. Absurdly hand held close ups and pre-vis fight sequences – in which Holmes pre-visualises the coming fisticuffs in slo-mo – lose their potency and become mere baubles in an already gaudy shop window.

Review by Louise Keller:
Eating hedgehog goulash with gypsies, a bride thrown off a train, Sherlock Holmes disguised as a chair and a naked Stephen Fry are some of the incongruous moments of Guy Ritchie’s sequel which once again has little to do with the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Better than the first film, but bogged down by the fatally inane, clownish comedic tone that sees Robert Downey Jnr dressed as a china man, a wild-eyed tramp, a transvestite, an old man, a curly haired student with buck-teeth and the afore mentioned chair, which incidentally is a stroke of genius, even if it doesn’t belong in this film.

To its credit, the tone of the film’s middle section finds a better comfort zone as a couple of scenarios are played for real and the silly flippant irreverence is momentarily set aside. The scenes when Holmes, Dr Watson (Jude Law) and others including the clairvoyant gypsy (Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are making their escape from an arms factory in Germany are tense and we feel as though there is something at stake. I didn’t even mind the stylised slo-mo as they run through the forest, as little Hansel (a monster of an automatic weapon) demolishes trees as if blades of grass.

The film’s locations – 19th century Paris (the scenes of the Paris Opera are sensational) and Switzerland (the spectacular wintry alps are breathtaking) certainly add to the elements as the story about the threat to destroy the civilised world. The villain is the mastermind, ruthless Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is taking advantage of the conflict in Europe for his own avaricious, evil intentions.

I am an unequivocal fan of Downey Jnr and always enjoy his work, although Sherlock Holmes (as envisioned by Guy Ritchie) is my least favourite of all his roles. Jude Law is much better this time around as the esteemed, loyal chappie Doctor Watson and Kelly Reilly is great as his new bride. Rapace is eminently watchable in what is essentially a thankless role and Harris (as Moriarty) is easy to loathe as Holmes’ formidable adversary. Stephen Fry is terrific as always, although some may rightly argue far too much is seen of him in one revealing scene.

I hated the first half hour which flaunted its senseless and irritating irreverent tone and Ritchie directed Downey Jnr as though he was revisiting his role in Chaplin. The way in which Holmes’ deductions are visualised in fast motion before the events occur are cleverly conceived and no doubt give the audience the fix of special effects it anticipates. It is the scenes such as the wonderfully angled shot of the Eiffel Tower, Don Giovanni at the Paris Opera House and the ballroom scene at the Swiss Peace Summit, when to the question ‘What do you see?’, Holmes says ‘Everything: that is my curse,’ that offers the film some moments of respite.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (M)
(US, 2011)

CAST: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Paul Anderson, Kelly Reilly, Geraldine James, Eddie Marsan, William Houston

PRODUCER: Joel Silver, Susan Downey, Dan Lin, Lionel Wigram

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

SCRIPT: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney (characters by Arthur Conan Doyle)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot

EDITOR: James Herbert

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 5, 2012







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