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SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (director: Guy Ritchie; screenwriters: characters based on Arthur Conan Doyle/Michele Mulroney/Kieran Mulroney; cinematographer: Phiippe Roussselot; editor: James Herbert; music: Hans Zimmer; cast: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Prof. Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madam Simza Heron), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Stephen Fry (Mycroft), Jared Harris (James Moriarty), Kelly Reilly (Mary Watson), Geraldine James (Mrs. Hudson), Eddie Marsan (Inspector Lestrade), Paul Anderson (Colonel Sebastian Moran); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Joel Silver/Lionel Wigram/Susan Downey/Dan Lin; Warner Bros.; 2011)

It foolishly makes Sherlock into a James Bond action hero.”

Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzMediocre Brit director Guy Ritchie (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”/”Snatch”)helms another mediocre Sherlock in the new franchise, a follow-up to the commercially successful 2009 Sherlock Holmes. It foolishly makes Sherlock into a James Bond action hero, and it results in a disappointing overlong mess and a nightmare for traditionalists. It was just bloody awful, as writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney provide a lackluster screenplay, the action scenes were second-rate Bond, the talented cast is reduced mostly to the elementary and the vulgarizing director, once married to Madonna, can’t help directing every film he makes as inane as his “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”

It’s set in 1891, in Victorian England. After a series of bombings and assassinations in France and Germany that raise the possibility of a war between the two countries, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr), contrary to popular opinion, believes his genius evil nemesis, the Oxford University professor, James Moriarty (Jared Harris), is behind the bombings by controlling the anarchist saboteurs. The amoral Moriarity uses the sexy Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), Holmes’ only love interest, to let Sherlock know he’s behind all the terrorist activity. When trusted sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) returns from holiday to Baker Street and announces his upcoming marriage plans to Mary (Kelly Reilly), Sherlock gets drunk with the bridegroom and after the wedding ropes Watson into teaming up to track down Moriarity’s hired anarchists while removing Mary to a safe location on her honeymoon when the couple’s train ride to Brighton is interrupted by Moriarity’s armed goons.

The supervillain Moriarty turns out to be a calculating war profiteer, who corners the market on armaments and stages assassinations causing rifts between nations in order to bring about a wide European conflict. The evil professor, known as the ‘Napoleon of crime’, warns Sherlock after the detective thwarts his anarchist assassination schemes “War on an industrial scale is inevitable, all I have to do is wait.”

The pic offers lots of wardrobe changes for Sherlock, even one in drag; but the action scenes are done by the numbers, the cat-and-mouse game is blurred by loud CGI effects and there was no suspense. The franchise has made Sherlock into an uninteresting smarty-pants, who takes sporting pleasure in kicking ass and making uncalled for comical nods and winks while in the middle of some deadly spat. The famous characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are far removed from the original conception.

Stephen Fry does a decent job playing Mycroft, Sherlock’s well-connected politically homosexual brother; while Swedish actress Noomi Rapace has no chance to show her acting ability, as her undeveloped stereotypical part as a gypsy fortune teller led nowhere and she had the most trite dialogue (well, maybe the witless banter between Holmes and Watson was even more superficial!).

REVIEWED ON 12/18/2011 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”