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Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Posted on by sam

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Director: Guy Ritchie (2011)

No matter how many times I racked my amazing brain, I could only remember two things about the first ‘Guy Ritchie does Sherlock Holmes’ film. An impressively mysterious introduction of Professor Moriarty (not showing a characters face can do wonders), and a nice effect where Holmes pre-analysed his upcoming fights, describing in detail which bits of his opponents anatomy he would break and how. Usually, when I remember so little about a film, it means it fell into the category of ‘passable mediocrity’. I guess between the Kick-Asses, Doomsdays, Terminator 3s and Drives, there just isn’t enough memory space to devote to second placers. Having watched A Game of Shadows though, I’m worried there may have been something more sinister behind my amnesia, something that I’ve done damn well at repressing.

I managed to repress or forget a hell of lot actually. For instance, I thought the character of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) had been added to the second film, but turns out she was a driving part of the first one, which explains a lot, because she got killed off after about ten minutes and I couldn’t understand why Ritchie bothered. Actually, it explains nothing and I still can’t understand why Ritchie bothered, I’m hoping it was some quasi-middle finger to his ex-wife. I also forgot about Holmes’s relationship to Watson, which I declare to be the worst friendship since Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Seriously, all they do is bicker and argue with each other. Holmes acts like a dick to Watson for pretty much the whole film, except for one moment where he throws Watson’s wife out a train, but I’ll explain why that was an act of true friendship later.

More interesting than 90% of this film, (Courtesy of shutterstock images)

As for the two things I remembered; I definitely preferred Moriarty before I saw his face. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with his face, it’s just he’s a complete bitch. They picked Jared Harris to play the world’s greatest criminal, but then seem to have told him to act bemused at all times. It’s like there’s a giant invisible blue ostrich in a tutu just out of frame, Harris can see it, but he’s not sure if it’s really there because everyone else keeps ignoring it, so he just tries to act normally, but he can’t, because it’s a giant invisible blue ostrich in a tutu. Again, everyone else keeps ignoring it, so he just gets more and more bemused at what’s going on. He also does nothing interesting, spending his ‘arch criminal’ time watching opera and reading. There was one nice moment spent torturing Sherlock on a swing type thingamajig, but as soon as that scene was over, he went back to giant invisible blue ostrich in a tutu bemusement/boring activities. Also, his master plan is meant to make him rich, but judging by what everyone says about him, he’s already rich, so I’m not really sure why he did anything, maybe the giant invisible blue ostrich in a tutu told him to, I really don’t care, which is a problem, because I’m meant to care about the main villain at least a little.

Also, Professor Moriarty may actually be an idiot, because he arranges to have someone shot then blown up, why? Why shoot someone you’re going to blow up? The explanation given is that he blew a room up to cover someone being shot’, in that case, Mr Moriarty, enjoy the following free advice; the best way to cover up someone being shot isn’t to blow them up after you’ve shot them, it’s to not shoot them in the first place and just blow them up, it gets the same result and you don’t leave a bullet lodged somewhere. Are you even trying?

Sherlock’s pre-fight analytical scenes are there, but, in the first one, for some reason, he decides to use the analogy of making breakfast, which is crap and doesn’t even fit. He doesn’t even scramble anyone, and I have no idea how grabbing someone’s neck is like whisking. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, maybe it’s just I’d forgotten, but Sherlock spends a hell of a lot of time in this film drinking poisons, which would be fine, but then he acts like an absolute prick. The only time he seems happy is when a bunch of gypsies (Led by Noomi Rapace) torment Dr Watson, but they eventually accept Watson and then it’s back to drunk arse Holmes. I’m sure he’s meant to be a brilliant scientist (In which case why the fuck would he drink formaldehyde), and really good at forensics and stuff, not sure though, because he doesn’t do a damn thing scientific in this film, he smells a few things, like an unwashed Cossack hiding in a roof, but that’s as far as he goes. I remember him being better, and cooler, and smarter, and funnier, and sober, but that may just be me.

Sherlock does commit one redemptive act, namely throwing Watson’s new wife out a train, which I will explain……………………………now. First off, even though they’ve just got married, Watson and his wife still exchange pleasantries like two awkward teenagers who are afraid to talk about sex. They refer to each other formally, and speak in quasi-metaphoric terms instead of doing what all married couples are meant to do, fuck before boredom and body functions set in. That’s not in itself enough to constitute being thrown from a train I’ll grant you, but wait, there’s more.

See, as if the fact Watson has married a frugal moron who can’t openly talk about sex wasn’t enough, his wife then insists they do one of the stupidest thing I’ve seen, since idiot scientist man in Rise of the Planet of the Apes thought resigning from his job was the way to stop an evil drug company producing a drug that could destroy humanity. (FUCK why do I still mention that film!) An assassin interrupts Watson and wife’s ‘adolescent flirting’ to try and kill them. Moments before this, Wife has found Watson’s pistol, asking him why he carried it. They manage to subdue the would be assassin without harming him, so then instead of questioning him, finding out where he’s from, who he’s working for, or if there are ANY MORE FUCKING ASSASSINS ON THE TRAIN (and for the record there was a whole army unit of them), Wife insists on throwing the man out the train without a seconds thought, which sex starved Watson duly does. I don’t remember anyone being quite so stupid in the first film, and believe that’s why Sherlock threw her off the train, to save Watson from his idiot wife getting him killed. As I said, True Friendship.

Oh, and Stephen Fry plays Mycroft, Sherlock’s pompously camp brother, who isn’t bad, but is to Sherlock Holmes what a jar of Marmite is to a tidal wave. I don’t remember him being in the first film either.

There are some plus points to A Game of Shadows, the action is well done, followable and actually pretty fun, the real villain of the piece, Colonel Sebastian Moran (Played well by Paul Anderson), steals every scene he’s in and apart from his penchant for taking the orders of a bemused looking man raving about giant invisible blue ostriches in tutu’s, I’d say he was also the most well-rounded and interesting character by a mile. If this were a silent film, it’d probably have worked, but unfortunately talkies have been out quite a while now, so Guy Ritchie has to incorporate dialogue into his film. In Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Ritchie showed he had a witty repertoire of phrases, unfortunately with the possible exception of Revolver, he has consistently shown that’s about the entire grasp for dialogue he has. Everyone in this film talks bollocks!

Irene Adler has this scene at the beginning where she’s arranging a dinner with Sherlock. The whole conversation turns into a ridiculous flirty game, and here’s a free piece of advice for you Mr Ritchie, the phrase ‘Don’t fill up on bread’ will never be sexy, no matter how you have Rachel McAdams say it. There are a lot worse examples, but they weren’t all as coherent, a lot of the time people just seem to be speaking utter nonsense.

Maybe I’m being harsh to A Game of Shadows; I saw it, (in a none gay way) with three other guys and they all liked it (Though one of them said he liked it because ‘things blew up and people got killed and stuff’), so maybe it’s just me. No, actually it’s not, and let me explain why, A Game of Shadows has some good stuff, decent action, a few nice performances, some funny jokes, but it’s also filled with lazy bits of fluff. There are tons of plot holes, moments of expository dialogue and boring characterisation, Ritchie is better than this, he proved with RocknRolla that Lock Stock/Snatch were not flukes, and that divorcing Madonna is good for the artistic soul, but with this film, he’s been lazy and self-indulgent.

Something’s coming back to me now, oh yeah, the original Sherlock Holmes, oh yeah, I described it as, forgettable…………………………….huh.

Know what wasn’t forgettable? Lock Stock. Know a film I can still quote from? RocknRolla. They were well done, adventurous and felt like they were making enough effort, they both had a clever and intelligent story I had to work at, and made me feel I would be repaid for my effort in kind. A Game of Shadows on the other hand, is lazy; it doesn’t even bother to make sense. There’s no discernible reason for Moriarty to do anything, no reason why Sherlock is so afraid of him and no reason why Stephen Fry should play himself rather than an actual character, (see V for Vendetta). If a film’s so insultingly lethargic, it has no right receiving my money, and that’s what pisses me off, I believe if you’re going to charge people to see your film, you have to try and give them the best return possible for their money, A Game of Shadows most definitely doesn’t try to do this, things blew up and people died yes, and maybe if Steven Segal was in the starring role that would be enough, but he wasn’t, so it isn’t. The audience deserve better, because Ritchie’s capable of better.

Sam ‘Represses the memory of Battlefield Earth’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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