DVD Release Date: June 12, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: December 16, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Crime/Sequel
Run Time: 129 min.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Eddie Marsan, William Houston

Other than the runaway box office success of Avatar, probably the biggest cinematic surprise of 2009 was director Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. As it turns out, old-fashioned sleuthing is quite the crowd-pleaser if you’ve got style, a slightly manic approach and Robert Downey Jr. (Due Date) in the driver’s seat.  

Considering just how popular Sherlock was (it grossed half a billion dollars worldwide), a sequel was practically inevitable. And for anyone wondering if the filmmakers could possibly capture the proverbial lighting in a bottle yet again with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, well, the answer is yes.

Wisely sticking with what worked so well before, the story picks right up from one of the threads left hanging last time around. Just as paranoid and kooky as ever (his drink of choice lately is embalming fluid, natch) Holmes’ web of conspiracy has widened considerably, thanks to a seemingly interconnected series of international murders and bombings. Utilizing his rather unorthodox methods, Holmes eventually zeroes in on one man, the “Napoleon of Crime,” a professor named James Moriarty (Jared Harris, TV’s Mad Men).

Naturally, one shouldn’t try and take down someone as powerful as Moriarty alone, so Holmes hopes that his dear friend Watson (Jude Law, Hugo) will be up for another adventure, even if he is getting married. Speaking of those upcoming nuptials, let’s just say Holmes is less than thrilled for his old pal. While he doesn’t necessarily have a problem with Mary Watson (Kelly Reilly, Me and Orson Welles) per se, it’s sharing Watson with someone else that seems to rankle him the most.

Given Holmes’ rather prickly feelings about the union, it’s not surprising that Watson’s stag night (yep, that’s the Brits’ equivalent of a bachelor party) gets far more screen time than the actual wedding. Serving as more than a simple symbolic gesture, however, the event also kick-starts the action since there’s plenty of bloody behind-the-scenes shenanigans that leave Sherlock and Watson with some serious battle scars once the big day rolls around.          

The wedding itself is short and rather uneventful, and before long, the happy couple has hopped a train to their honeymoon in Brighton. Sherlock, being Sherlock, though, has far bigger plans in mind for his newly married buddy. With Holmes hot on Moriarty’s trail, Watson is now viewed as a target, too, and Sherlock is intent on protecting him from harm.

Sporting what he claims isn’t necessarily his best disguise (yeah, the ice blue eye shadow isn’t really Downey’s color), Holmes prepares for the forthcoming attack on that same train. It’s here where the brainy detective officially transforms into a full-fledged superhero, minus the cape of course. In an impressive sequence of carefully choreographed combat maneuvers (cue the slow-mo), Holmes and Watson fight off the brooding henchman, while the new bride is reluctantly keeping company with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry, Alice in Wonderland).

Offering a feminine perspective on the proceedings is Holmes and Watson’s unlikely ally, a gypsy who goes by Sim (Noomi Rapace from the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Armed with her own motivation for wanting Moriarty dead, they eventually chase their common enemy from France to Germany, and finally, to Switzerland where a planned peace conference will be anything but peaceful if Moriarty gets his way.

Like its predecessor, there’s a madcap, they’re-making-it-up-as-they-go charm that fuels A Game of Shadows. Anchored by the chemistry of the two appealing leads, Holmes and Watson are still quite the dynamic duo. Armed with plenty of snarky banter that provides levity while being thrust into one intense situation after another, Downey and Law are clearly having a good time with these characters, and it shows.