Tuesday, 20 December 2011


"Are you sure you want to play this game?"
"I'm afraid you'd lose."

Having made the surprisingly enjoyable Sherlock Holmes back in 2009, director Guy Ritchie will have been pleased to get back on track with his films following a couple of major flops and with his first sequel, he manages to make it just as thrilling and entertaining as the original. Likewise his leading star, American actor Robert Downey Jr was originally seen as a bizarre choice for the role of the shrewish detective but his robust characterisation of Holmes garnered him solid acclaim which eventually led to him winning a Golden Globe. But once again the fun and eccentric Holmes returns to our screens with his trustworthy sidekick Dr. Watson by his side as Ritchie sticks to the successful formula provided by the original which is sure to keep fans happy even if it does feel a bit too similar....

Following on from the events of the first film, detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his long-suffering sidekick Dr. Watson (Jude Law) try to find sinister villain Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who has been letting off bombs in various places around Europe. To make him more evil, he also bumps off Holmes's love interest from the previous film Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) after she refuses to carry on working for him. When Holmes rescues a pretty gypsy named Madam Simza (Noomi Rapace) from a hitman, he suspects that the damsel may have been targeted because of her brother being involved in these bomb attacks. He ends up having to save Watson and his new wife Mary (Kelly Reilly) from other assassins sent by Moriarty on a train whilst they are on their honeymoon. With the male duo reunited, they decide to track down Simza and her gypsy village in France where they discover that Moriarty is initialising these attacks to cause more political fallout between France and Germany which could lead to war. Holmes, Watson and Simza must try to stop Moriarty from creating more destruction otherwise this war will grow into a worldwide conflict....

Inspired by joint stories from Sir Arthur Coyle and Dr Watson himself, Ritchie manages to helm one of the more enjoyable sequels of recent times. The old charm is back and so is the great comedy (Holmes riding on top of a Shetland pony is too funny) as well as the intense action which is spectacular at times with explosions a-plenty from the train battle (involving a dress wearing Holmes) to the chase through the woods as our heroes try to avoid mass gunfire with tenacious slow-motion used to create suspense to the scene. Hans Zimmer yet again delivers an exceptional soundtrack while the cinematography captures the detailed art direction of 19th century Europe with visual splendor. Once again Downey Jr. has the central role as Sherlock and once again carries off the eccentricities of Sherlock with great enthusiasm though Law is also just as good if not better in his reprisal of Watson. Throughout the film, the interaction and chemistry between the pair is a lot more snappy and improvised at times making them one of cinema's great on-screen duos in modern cinema. Whilst as chilling as Mark Strong was as a villain in the original, the casting of Harris as Moriarty is surprisingly effective here despite not being a household name. Watching him match wits with Downey Jr makes him look deceptive, even with a wide grin and his looks are terrifying to say the least, especially after his first appearance when poor Irene suffers. Also making a respectable debut in the franchise is Sherly's brother (Stephen Fry) who adds charm and humour to his role making a clear impact in the few scenes he is given.

With its flaws one surprise letdown is the lack of female character involvement as the film chooses to dominate itself with Holmes and Watson getting the most screen-time. Original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo actress Rapace, who looks a far cry from her role as Libeth Salander, scrubs up well here, but her gypsy character lacks the female drive of what McAdam's Irene Adler achieved in the first film (though she too is sadly wasted here along with Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade). Rather surprisingly though Reilly gets a bit more to do here but is put aside in favour of the bromantic partnership. Technically although it worked well with the original, some of the uses of slow-motion start to become tiring. We know that Holmes likes to evaluate the moves of both his adversaries and himself before he makes them, but watching him plot it out does drag the film out longer than it needs to be and makes it look more like a Zach Snyder film. At just under 130 minutes, it could have been shorter with some of the slow-motion sped up to make the film flow a bit more though it's also down to the somewhat wonky story which does get out of place at times.

VERDICT: The wit and spark is still there as Holmes and Watson ride again in a satisfactory sequel and though the story does overlap a bit as well as the tiring use of slow-motion, it's entertaining nonetheless and certainly looking strong as a big-hit franchise. Most intriguing....


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