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Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” certainly won’t win over those who found the 2009 action film an irredeemable bastardization of a beloved character.

But this sequel offers a welcome reward to those who saw promise in the premise — a brisk, globe-hopping adventure that respects both canon and cannons. And by the end of “Shadows,” Robert Downey Jr. reveals why he’s perfect for this part — rounding out Holmes into a troubled hero and not simply a charming rogue.

As “Shadows” opens, Holmes is living on a diet of coffee, tobacco and coca leaves — consumed by his battle of wills with archenemy Professor Moriarty. (“Shadows” smartly scuttles the original’s supernatural tones for something more cerebral.) Revealed as the evil mastermind of the original’s conclusion, Moriarty is every bit the genius as Holmes … save the whole good-guy thing.

They’ve been baiting each other with catnip and cheese for months, ensnaring two people in the middle — Dr. Watson (Jude Law), Holmes’ reluctant right-hand man, and Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), Holmes’ antagonistic love interest and Moriarty’s employee.

Resembling a welterweight Brendan Gleeson, veteran character actor Jared Harris eerily elucidates the detached, cunning and cruel menace expected from Moriarty. Composer Hans Zimmer augments the effect, revisiting the unsettlingly atonal chromatics of “The Dark Knight” whenever Moriarty lays out his amorality.

It doesn’t take long for Moriarty to definitively elevate the stakes and force Holmes, Watson and Irene out of familiar London environs to foil his endgame. And in doing so, it sets up a story superior to the original — something tougher and riskier.

That’s not to say “Shadows” doesn’t run over a few cobblestone potholes.

Downey and Law hit many similar bromantic beats as before, but one slyly silent exchange and another that burbles with rage offer refreshing changes of pace.

In her Hollywood debut, Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander) has all the energy of a designer handbag. The most “Shadows” can do with her exotic features is cast her as a gypsy fortuneteller whose family is also caught up in Moriarty’s plan. And after a nifty knife-throwing scene early, she’s shuffled off to the sidelines.

Returning director Guy Ritchie unfolds his action at the pace of a Victorian-era Bond movie, easily his best showcase since his “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” debut. A munitions factory sequence is a woolly mix of Western and war movie, and “Shadows” even has a Q of sorts in Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (splendidly played by Stephen Fry). Only one scene — during which key players sprint in slow motion through a forest like a meathead version of “Melancholia” — truly rankles.

That bit comes not long after Moriarty’s grand plan is revealed; sadly, it’s the sort of stale, megalomaniacal bid for domination done better in a million other movies. And yet revealing too much about it would ruin some of the surprising places it takes Holmes.

It would be easy for Downey to simply fall back on cheeky-douche humor when the going gets tough. Instead, his work here suggests Holmes’ idiosyncrasies ascend from a darker place —his alienating behavior the most reliable defense mechanism against the heightened senses he brands a curse.

Fans of Conan Doyle’s books will certainly appreciate, and anticipate, the film’s climactic moments. But even moviegoers whose action jones been sated by then will notice a different Holmes in that scene — battered, bruised and visibly aged by his devil’s dance with Moriarty. By making rougher choices and taking crucial chances that pay off in the resolution, this “Game of Shadows” isn’t just afoot, it’s affecting.

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15 Responses to “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

  1. Dennis Plush says:

    Okay, maybe I am a recluse who never leaves my house while reading books and thefilmyap.com. After reading your review, I decided it was time to stop being a bookworm and get out like Holmes. I went to the local Wally World depot and bought a cheap copy of the original. Popped it into the movie player and lit up a pipe (okay..a stoagie). Fantastic action. Looking forwad to seeing the sequal this afternoon.

  2. Kim B says:

    Not very often do sequels live up to the original, but this movie blew the first one away in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed the action scenes and would definitely go back and see it again. I would also recommend to anyone looking for a good movie to watch. I’m a huge Robert Downey Jr fan so that helps. My 14 year old son replied to it as ‘awesome’. I see a third installment in the next couple years, and I look forward to it.

  3. Jack Ripple says:

    Your review was far from ‘elementary’ – rather post-secondary, in fact – cheers!

  4. Jacki says:

    I really enjoyed this action packed movie. The dialouge was quick and witty. Loved the scenes with Sherlock’s brother and Dr. Watson’s new bride. Dr. Moriarty was cool and calculating to the very end. The chemistry between JL and RDJR is amazing. Can’t wait for installment #3.

  5. Josh says:

    Really enjoyed this movie. Similar yet different enough to the 2009 one. Just wish McAdams got more screentime as Irene as I love her character but what she had was great (and honestly was more than i expected her to have.)
    Harris was great as Moriarty and the character was well written. Brilliant and dangerous, but suave and cool headed. Never seemed to lose his cool and could never really tell who was one up on teh other throughout the film. Both seemed to be thinking three steps ahead of the other.
    Hopefully get another great follow up in acouple years. You know this battle of wits isn’t done with the ending we got.

  6. John Mojzuk says:

    We really enjoyed this movie. Fun, exciting. Talked about it all the way home. Downey Jr and Law were fantastic, A couple of really fun guys.

  7. Brooks Bowden says:

    Best roles ever. Arghh auto correct!

  8. Brooks Bowden says:

    I’m meant good actors

  9. Brooks Bowden says:

    I’m ready for this. RDJR is one of the consistently goo actors out today. What do you guys think is his best told ever. I like Iron Man and Zodiac

  10. PHYLLIS \G says:

    i loved this movie.Robert Downey was great . It was very exciting an d lots of fun. Loved your review.

  11. Leo says:

    Thanks to the great reviews, I will be seeing this movie opening weekend! Can’t wait!!

  12. Leo says:

    Thanks to the great reviews, I will be seeing this movie opening weekend! Can’t wait!!

  13. Nick M. says:

    Thanks for the review. I will definitely be seeing this in theaters.

  14. Mike says:

    I’m excited with this positive review. I liked the first film a lot. Thanks Yappers!

  15. Steve B says:

    Nice review. I enjoyed the first movie, and this one sounds like it will be a bit better than the first. The ‘original’ didn’t seem to be lacking much to me since I was fine with the sets, pacing, and action sequences. If those are at least copied with a better story, then I’m sure I’ll enjoy the second installment.