SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS: Dangerous at Both Ends and Crafty in the Middle

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) – Directed by Guy Ritchie – Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, Paul Anderson, and Stephen Fry.

It was fun.


Sometimes I watch a movie and there’s just not a lot I want to say about it. Such is the case of SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film with more of Robert Downey Jr. being roguishly, charmingly impossible, with Jude Law being reluctantly happy to be along for the ride. There’s plenty of slo-mo action scenes (which Guy Ritchie has to include or the world will end), plenty of playful nods to Holmes and Watson’s homoeroticism, plenty of things blowing up, and plenty of cleverness. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film.

Wait. Did I say that already?

A GAME OF SHADOWS is the type of entertainment that doesn’t ask anything from you except to be comfortable in my seat. Which I was. Sort of. (Some dick entered the movie right as it was starting and sat right in front of me despite there being plenty of open seats all over the place. Why would anyone do that? It wasn’t as bad as the one ultimate assh*le who sat right in front of me for Cloverfield even though I was the ONLY person in the entire theater, but still, how can anyone have such poor theater-going manners?) It’s also the kind of film that doesn’t promise you anything except what you’re expecting to get, and on that it delivers. SHADOWS is like a formulaic TV show writ large; I know what I’m getting from Castle every week, for instance, and it delivers it with seeming ease and aplomb. I don’t knock or mock it for being predictable because I want what it promises.

And what it promises is Robert Downey Jr. being roguishly, charmingly impossible and Jude Law being reluctantly happy to be along for the-

Wait. Did I say that already?

I should probably mention that I have no loyalty to Sherlock Holmes. While I like the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, the detectives of my youth were Scooby Doo and pals, the Hardy Boys, the Three Investigators, and Encyclopedia Brown. I’m happy to get a good Sherlock Holmes story, wherever it comes from, so when the internet lost its mind last month over CBS’ announcement to do a modern Sherlock story set in New York City, I wasn’t the least bit bothered. No matter if Elementary turns out to be awful, it’s not going to effect either the Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes’ stories or the Steven Moffat’s current modern interpretation called Sherlock.

The Sherlock that inhabits Guy Ritchie’s films are designed to play to Downey’s strengths and both films do a wonderful job at that. Here, we’ve got a Holmes who’s convinced that a series of French/German bombings are the work of a shadowy mastermind – Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris). At the same time, we’ve got a Watson on the verge of marriage to Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). The Moriarty subplot seems to be here more for Holmes to have a battle of wits while the Watson subplot is here for Downey to be a rascal.

Both plots work. The first leads to all the action and it’s all really well crafted and exciting. The Moriarty plot creates much of the Watson plot, as it’s Moriarty who insists that Watson be involved in the “game” he and Holmes are playing. The film does engage in a bit too much of the “ha-ha, let us show you how brilliant Holmes has been while you think he was doing something else” routines, but Ritchie does a bang-up keeping everything moving forward.

And that’s it, really. Other than a very memorable, very funny turn from Stephen Fry as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, there’s not a lot here that I’m going to remember. Jared Harris is very good as Moriarty, but then nearly everyone in the film is very good. There’s just so little of it that’s memorable to me. I’ll buy the Blu ray when it hits the $10 bin and enjoy it again, and then probably just as quickly forget about it.