Film reviewer Dana Barbuto gives the new "Sherlock Holmes" movie 3 out of 4 stars and says, "In reprising their roles, Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as his stalwart sidekick Dr. Watson travel across Europe in a shadowy cat-and-mouse game to stop criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, played by a deliciously twisted Jared Harris (“Mad Men”), from achieving world domination." Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

If you liked Guy Ritchie’s first “Sherlock Holmes,” you’ll love its follow-up, “A Game of Shadows.” It’s an all-around better film with a stronger script and less convoluted storytelling, as it picks up nicely from where the original left off.


In reprising their roles, Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as his stalwart sidekick Dr. Watson travel across Europe in a shadowy cat-and-mouse game to stop criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, played by a deliciously twisted Jared Harris (“Mad Men”), from achieving world domination. What ensues is totally implausible with big gaps in the plot. It’s overwrought and sort of a mess, but it stands out as a cinematic sugar rush in a season of sweets. And Downey, Law and Harris are the reasons why. The chemistry among them is palpable and drives the film.


A pretty buff Downey plays Holmes not as bumbling gumshoe but as a Victorian-era Jason Bourne. He’s still performing scientific experiments on the dog and getting buzzed from drinking embalming fluid, but he’s a master fighter who’s always four steps ahead of his opponents. He infuses Holmes with so much badass it’s hard to believe this is the character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created, especially when he’s dressed in drag, made up in bright blue eye shadow and red lipstick, shooting dudes on a moving train. Downey really sells it, too. He’s clearly having a blast.


Again, the film has Ritchie’s stylized stamp all over it – pithy dialogue, quick-cut camera work, scene freezes, slo-mo shots and plot rewinds. A fight sequence breaks out in the opening minutes setting the tone for what’s to come in a story that is much more amped up than the original.


What’s disappointing is Ritchie’s squandering of what should have been a nice asset for his film – Noomi Rapace. Known for her role as Lisbeth Salander in the original “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” the Swedish star makes a rather lackluster Hollywood debut, playing a gypsy named Simza. Holmes and Watson enlist Simza’s help because she’s the recipient of a mysterious letter concerning the execution of Moriarty’s violent schemes. Sadly, Rapace doesn’t have much to do and her character isn’t drawn well by writers Michele and Kieran Mulroney, who take over screenplay duties from a team of five who wrote the first film.


To their credit, the filmmakers wisely don’t banish Watson from a chunk of the film, like last time.


When we catch up with the detective duo, it’s the night before Watson’s wedding and Holmes is experiencing separation anxiety. Along comes this Moriarty business to distract him. Holmes delivers a worse-for-the-wear Watson to the church in time to say “I do.”


Later, in one of the film’s most inspired scenes, Holmes gets rid of Watson’s wife (British stage vet Kelly Reilly) and his bromance with his partner is rekindled. From there on out, it’s “Game” on with Moriarty, a formidable foe who is anything but elementary.


Reach Dana Barbuto at dbarbuto@ledger.com.


SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.) Cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris and Rachel McAdams. 3 stars out of 4.