‘Holmes’ a visual, if easy-to-solve, game of deduction
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” the latest reincarnation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth, takes us through an overcast Victorian-era Europe with a dizzying array of slow-motion fisticuffs, witty one-liners and cat-and-mouse antics between Holmes and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. And though brash and flashy, long the style of director Guy Ritchie, a lack of intrigue and suspense, coupled with a bored performance by Robert Downey Jr., “Game of Shadows” leaves you wondering: Where’s the mystery?
With smokestacks and steel littering the Industrial-age landscape, we’re introduced to a Europe on the verge of crisis. Bombings have shaken the Continent, leaving individual countries pointing fingers. The question is, though, who is committing these acts of terror? And trying to deduce that very question is none other than Sherlock Holmes (Downey), a man of indomitable wit and severe social deficiencies.
Aiding him in his endeavor is companion Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), though the relationship has become strained thanks to Watson’s coming nuptials. A pesky wedding, however, does little to hinder Holmes in dragging his wingman into the fray, using his expertise to help unravel the mysteries of Professor Moriarty.
The mysteries surrounding Moriarty, though, are quickly dispensed, thanks in large part to the exacting efficiencies of Jared Harris, who plays the nemesis with aplomb.
Being a third-party observer to the back-and-forth between Holmes and Moriarty is quite fascinating at first. It’s enjoyable to see who will get the upper hand, though Moriarty, as the villain, has the advantage from the beginning: It’s easier to destroy something than it is to save it.
Even so, watching the massive chess match between him and Holmes, the volleying between foes, becomes tedious after two hours, especially when you’re told how and why everything is being done.
A saving grace, a trait carried from the first installment strong enough to alleviate the sometimes soul-shattering boredom, is the bromance between Downey’s Holmes and Law’s Watson. The two men continue their love-hate relationship. Each man brings a sharpened focus to the intense friendship: Law zeroing in on concern, Downey on genius.
Still, even with a screenplay tantalizing close to matching the intellectual weight of the bedeviled hero, “Game of Shadows” simply piles on more muscle, slo-mo and chases at the expense of the narrative. And for a hero whose logic is world-renown, that simply is not elementary.
Three sluething stars out of five.