'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows': What the Critics Are Saying

7:05 AM PST 12/16/2011 by THR Staff
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows"

Reviews were mixed for director Guy Ritchie's sequel with returning stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

Holmes and Watson are ready to tackle another mystery.

Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, returning Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in the title roles and introducing Noomi Repace to the cast, is expected to rule the weekend with a gross in the $40 million to $50 million range. Whether it'll grab audiences remains a question, but with critics, it was a mixed bag.

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy observed that the sequel, again directed by Guy Ritchie, continues the "mannered shenanigans from the heavily revisionist Holmes and Watson, whose action moves play straight to modern audiences' tastes," even noting at one point that Downey and Law's "portrayals of these famous characters are so distant from the original conceptions has now been proven irrelevant, perhaps even a plus to modern audiences."

"Unfortunately, Ritchie and his new scenarists, Michele and Kieran Mulroney, who co-wrote and directed Paper Man in 2009, largely eschew the sort of delicious cat-and-mouse game that could have maximized this face-off between two such worthy opponents (Holmes and Moriarty), saving their only extended encounter for the climax," McCarthy writes, adding that the film focuses a lot of time Holmes and Watson's trip with a gypsy fortune teller (Rapace).

The San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle wasn't so positive, saying that the while the story centers on "two criminal masterminds [who] go on a cruel rampage through London ... the more dangerous of the two is the one behind the camera." LaSalle pointed out that the director relied on "crazy quick cutting in the fight scenes, jarring angles and some unexpected use of slow motion" throughout the movie and even calls it Ritchie's worst project of his career ("There's nothing here but wreckage," he concludes at one point).

But the directing wasn't his only gripe. Speaking of the dialogue, LaSalle wrote: "Here's one of many ridiculous examples: Holmes ponders, 'What does the greatest criminal mastermind want with a simple fortune-teller? It's her brother, I tell you!' "

The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey's take was more in line with McCarthy's, believing that the sequel served the actors and the characters well, believing that Ritchie was more successful this time around than in his first Sherlock Holmes effort. "A Game of Shadows a few shades brighter than its predecessor, and the action bits certainly closer to the full-throttle Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels mode director Guy Ritchie didn't quite capture the first time," she said.

The new additions, Sharkey said, "are a draw," making mention of Rapace but complaining that the filmmakers didn't give her enough to do. "If you bother casting the terrific Rapace ... for heaven's sakes give her something substantial to do," she said. "They don't." But new blood Stephen Fry struck a chord: "The multi-talented Fry turns out to be smashing as Holmes' quirky older brother."

The San Jose Mercury News' Charlie McCollum posits that the sequel is "even more entertaining" with "overblown fight scenes and big bangs." Though the storyline doesn't quite make sense, McCollum noted that "the playful, homoerotic subtext is downwright pervasive."

And though McCollum called the dialogue "mediocre" (like LaSalle), he gave props to Downey and Law for making them turn into something more: "He and Law have great chemistry, and rarely have two actors done more with mediocre dialogue."

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