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Movie Guy

December 16, 2011

Sherlock Holmes still packs brainy punch

— Guy Ritchie’s cinematic reinvention of “Sherlock Holmes” in 2009 was a huge success, garnering more than a half a billion dollars internationally. The decision to make a sequel was elementary. Fans of the original movie will be pleased that “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” is another crowd-pleasing mix of humor and action. On the other hand, fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective will continue to see these movies as nothing short of a literary abomination.

Perhaps the most notable element of the new “Sherlock Homes” movie is that it pits Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) against his most dangerous foe, the infamous Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris). As the film opens, Holmes has noticed the series of assassinations and bombings that are driving France and Germany to the brink of war. Loyal sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) has been too busy planning his wedding to help out, so it’s up to our brainy hero to figure out who’s behind the chaos and then devise a way to stop him.

Without giving anything away, Holmes and Moriarty are soon matching wits with the fate of Europe hanging in the balance. Harris proves to be a superb choice as the villain, exuding cruel intelligence and capable menace. It was rumored that this role was originally offered to Brad Pitt. As much as I enjoy Pitt’s work, I can’t imagine “Sherlock Holmes 2” as being anywhere near as satisfying without Harris’s capable performance.

The same holds true for Stephen Fry, who provides a lot of dry comic charm in the role of Holmes’ brother Mycroft. Noomi Rapace is the other newcomer, playing a gypsy woman set on revenge, but her role gets somewhat lost among all the other larger-than-life characters.

The characters are also overwhelmed at times by Ritchie’s love of over-the-top action sequences. Using the style he set up in the previous film, we watch as Holmes first envisions how his enemies will attack in slow motion before thrilling to the full speed replay of the chaos. That makes for an effective cinematic trick; although the audience’s reaction will be somewhat muted by the film’s grimy blue and gray color palate.

I doubt that fans of the film series will mind these few artistic flourishes. The important thing is that the action is still quite thrilling and the main actors are a lot of fun to watch as they bicker their way through this mystery. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that this movie will be a huge hit over the holidays.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.

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