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December 25, 2011
Review - " Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows "   
(in theaters) By
Roland Hansen
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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Rachel
McAdams, Kelly Reilly, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry

Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the
room...until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large—
Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris)—and not only is he
Holmes' intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with
a complete lack of conscience, may give him an advantage over
the renowned detective.

Around the globe, headlines break the news: a scandal takes
down an Indian cotton tycoon; a Chinese opium trader dies of
an apparent overdose; bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna; the
death of an American steel magnate... No one sees the
connective thread between these seemingly random events—no
one, that is, except the great Sherlock Holmes, who has
discerned a deliberate web of death and destruction. At its
center sits a singularly sinister spider: Moriarty.

Holmes' investigation into Moriarty's plot becomes more
dangerous as it leads him and Watson out of London to France,
Germany and finally Switzerland. But the cunning Moriarty is
always one step ahead, and moving perilously close to
completing his ominous plan. If he succeeds, it will not only bring
him immense wealth and power but alter the course of history.

2009's "Sherlock Holmes" was an exciting, well-paced romp with
one of Hollywood's top actors in the title role. Downey can play
anyone from a spoiled white billionaire playboy (in Marvel's "Iron
Man" franchise) to a black soldier of fortune ("Tropic Thunder").
I'm not sure how authentic his accent in the role of Britain's most
famous sleuth is but at least he was consistent.
Sequels seldom measure up to their predecessors, but "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" fits so snugly behind the
original that you might think they shot them together. Guy Ritchie didn't miss a beat, nor did his dynamic duo of Downey and
Jude Law, who returns to his role of Holmes' able partner Dr. John Watson. I was delighted to see Rachel McAdams (as Irene
Sadler, the only woman to ever pique Holmes' interest) and Kelly Reilly (as Mary Morstan, Dr. Watson's fiancee) return, not
just for their ample beauty but for the strength both actresses give their characters. Women featured in many
male-dominated stories seem more often than not to be either victims or simple window dressing. Kudos to Guy Ritchie for
giving these characters more to do than just weeping. Also returning are Geraldine James as the landlady of 221B Baker
Street and Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Though neither have a lot of screentime the familiarity of
their characters is welcome. New to the cast is Stephen Fry, the veteran actor who plays Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older
brother. Noomi Rapace, famous for her title role in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is excellent as the gypsy Simza. She
too is a strong female character, joining Holmes and Watson in search of her brother, the unwitting lynchpin to the grand
scheme of  the evil Professor James Moriarty, played by Jared Harris.

However, the real draw of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tales was always the friendship of Holmes and Watson, as well as the
whodunit element. Moriarty gets perhaps too much credit as Holmes' archnemesis, as he only ever appeared in person in
two stories, and gets mentioned in passing in a handful of others. Their rivalry certainly lacks the intensity both time and
familiarity bring, like that of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Ritchie gets right what matters the most, the
rather "odd couple" relationship of Holmes and Watson. He does this through dialogue that never bores and well-placed
action that demonstrates his skill as a visual
storyteller. From the signature cerebral martial
arts breakdowns Holmes works out in slow
motion internally before exploding into real
time, to the wonderful frantic feel of Holmes,
Watson, Simza and her gypsy cohorts rushing
through a forest as mortar shells explode
around them, Ritchie seemed quite
comfortable with mayhem on any scale.

As always, I go to the movies to be entertained
and Guy Ritchie once again gave me my
money's worth. With a strong cast, great
action, and the possibility of still more big
screen adventures to come, "Sherlock Holmes:
A Game of Shadows" is one of the rare
sequels that are truly worthy of the original.