out of Five
Running time: 130
Watchable sequel to the 2009 hit, enlivened by industrial strength chemistry between the two (male) leads and some laugh-out-loud comedy moments, though it's also at least half an hour too long, the fight scenes are frustratingly over-directed and there's a disappointing lack of actual sleuthing.
What's it all about?
Directed by Guy Ritchie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is the sequel to the 2009 hit, which successfully adapted the Sherlock Holmes character for film once more. After uncovering a vital clue (and having a deadly fight with a Cossack) at Doctor Watson's (Jude Law) stag do, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) uncovers a dastardly plot by his silky-voiced nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) and drags Watson across Europe on a quest that will take them to Paris, Germany and ultimately Switzerland's Reichenbach Falls (a destination well known by Holmes fans).
Along the way, Holmes ditches Watson's new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly) mid-honeymoon and picks up gypsy fortune teller Madam Sim (Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), whose missing anarchist brother holds the key to Moriarty's fiendish plot.
One of the pleasures of the 2009 film was the amusingly homoerotic chemistry between Downey Jr's perfectly cast Holmes and Law's excellent Watson, so naturally, that's been ratcheted up a notch for the sequel, to the point where they actually have a fight during which Watson rips Sherlock's clothes off. There's also strong comic support from Stephen Fry, who puts in an unnecessarily naked turn as Sherlock's brother Mycroft.
In addition, Ritchie delivers some enjoyable set-pieces (the sequence on the train is a particular highlight) and pulls off a couple of hilarious comedy moments, most notably a rather brilliant off-the-wall extended gag involving a Shetland Pony (“Slow and steady wins the race!”). On top of that, Holmes and Moriarty's confrontations are nicely handled and the finale is suitably satisfying.
That said, the film is at least 30 minutes too long (the gypsy camp scenes could have easily been trimmed) and Ritchie really overdoes the whizz-bang editing on the fight sequences, to the point where they're no longer enjoyable to watch. It's also fair to say that the women (Rapace, Reilly and a cameoing Rachel McAdams) all get short shrift, with Rapace in particular given almost nothing interesting to do after the initial Cossack fight. Plus, would it have killed them to write in a bit more actual sleuthing?
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is an entertaining sequel thanks to an amusing script, some decent set pieces and superb performances but it's also rather over-indulgent and the over-directed fight scenes don't work as well here as they did first time round.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (12A)