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'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' Review: An Elementary Sequel Beneath the Source Material


In 1893, having wearied of his most famous creation, Arthur Conan Doyle sent Sherlock Holmes tumbling off a Swiss mountain ledge to his death in the foaming Reichenbach Falls, still locked in battle with his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, “the Napoleon of crime.” Holmes stayed dead for eight years. But then …

Well, I don’t want to suggest the non-possibility that director Guy Ritchie has no sequel up his sleeve to follow “A Game of Shadows,” his second neo-Holmes movie. This new one retains some of the virtues of the first–mainly the irrepressible Robert Downey Jr. in the title role; amiable Jude Law as his prickly colleague, Dr. Watson; and Sarah Greenwood’s plush Victorian production design.

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But it also continues, and compounds, the shortcomings of that earlier film, chiefly the edited-to-death incoherence of Ritchie’s action scenes, with their tedious slo-mo trappings and kung-fu anachronisms, and his complete indifference to the elegant charm of Conan Doyle’s famous “consulting detective.” I mean, Sherlock Holmes in drag? Please.

While Conan Doyle did bring Moriarty out of the shadows in “The Final Problem” — the Holmes story to which this movie is largely irrelevant–Ritchie drags the evil brainiac onto center stage, which is a predictable mistake. Any character so malign must shrivel in the light; and Jared Harris (of “Mad Men”), who plays the nefarious professor, is too genial a presence to pass for sinister.

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