Swashbuckling Sherlock: Robert Downey Jr returns as a gun-toting, fist-fighting Sherlock Holmes and he”s terrific fun
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (12A)
Verdict: Action and fun
Admirers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s complex, cerebral sleuth should stay away from Guy Ritchie’s second film about a bare-knuckle fighter of the same name, played by Robert Downey Jr as a smart-alec spoiling for a fight.
The film’s villain, Moriarty, and his climactic fight with Holmes are all that remain of Conan Doyle’s short story, The Final Problem.
Downey’s version of the detective is essentially Sherlock Hams, a swashbuckling eccentric, none-too-distantly related to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.
Back for more: Noomi Rapce as Madam Simza Heron, Robery Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. James Watson
But though he is more indebted to comic strips than Conan Doyle, his new adventure is an enjoyably silly romp.
The story is of little importance. The dastardly Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) is planning to engineer World War I some 23 years early by using anarchists to blow up French and German dignitaries in such a way as to annoy both countries.
Why does Moriarty wish to do this Because he is an arms manufacturer, silly.
For some reason, Holmes is on his own in his belief that Moriarty is behind the outrages. Worse still, Sherlock’s usual partner Dr Watson (Jude Law) is unavailable, as he is about to marry his fiance (Kelly Reilly) and go on honeymoon with her to Brighton.
Turning the heat up: The film seems to have a lack of intrerest in women
Fortunately, Moriarty launches an assassination attempt on the good doctor and his bride on the London-to-Brighton train, whereupon Holmes and an enraged Watson embark on a chase across Europe to an international peace summit at Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, where Holmes and Moriarty notoriously fall to their deaths . . . or do they
Along the way, Holmes has fist-fights with Cossacks, dances with Watson and experiments with some of the silliest disguises in film history.
Ten years ago, Downey Jr’s drug abuse made him uninsurable; now he’s one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. For turning his life around, he deserves respect.
I continue to find his anachronistic designer stubble distracting, and could have done with more evidence of Holmes’s ingenious detective work.
Time to go camping: Stephen Fry goes for gold as Sherlock Holmes” older brother
However, Downey has many things going for him. He is obviously intelligent and can deliver whole sentences in an English accent without it strangling his performance.
He is also splendidly uninhibited in a series of ridiculous disguises that would have a method actor reaching for his smelling salts.
And he’s created a terrific double act with Jude Law as Dr Watson, none-too-subtly hinting at a gay subtext as Holmes agonises over why Watson would go away with a woman on honeymoon rather than with him.
In fact, the film itself seems to have a lack of interest in women, too — three fine actresses, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish film of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) have little to do except model sumptuous Jenny Beavan costumes.
Big brother is watching: Jack Laskey as Carruthers and Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
Slack screenwriting means McAdams’s part could have been removed at no loss to the movie.
Stephen Fry makes more of an impression as the sleek, self-satisfied Mycroft, Sherlock’s elaborately camp elder brother, the one with government connections and an amusingly arrogant sense of entitlement.
Harris does nothing wrong as Moriarty, but I had hoped for a little more grandeur, more devilry in his wickedness. His chess rivalry with Holmes is hackneyed and too self-consciously metaphorical.
And Hans Zimmer’s score is monotonously bombastic.
But it would be churlish to deny that Sherlock Holmes 2 is entertaining. In terms of pace, humour and style, it has the edge over its predecessor.
And it does have character. Whether or not it is Conan Doyle’s character is another matter.