The first Sherlock Homes movie I really enjoyed, as although looking back the casting of Robert Downey Jr didn’t seem obvious at first, I was pleased to see his chameleon-like acting skills suited the part immensely, helped by an equally adept Jude Law as Dr Watson. So sitting down to another escapade with this likable duo was easy. This one has Holmes and Watson up against their greatest ever foe, Professor Moriarty (a brilliant Jared Harris) who seems behind a series of bombings and assassination attempts. Holmes leaps into action to piece the clues together and sets forth on an adventure that takes him from London to Paris and many other locales in an attempt to prevent a global catastrophe.
Downey Jr, easily one of my favourite actors is on brilliant form as Holmes, and his quips, excentric behaviour and plethora of increasingly bizarre disguises is a joy to behold. Law is somewhat more subdued this time around but still manages to spar with his on-screen buddy amicably. Joining the cast is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace who makes for a feisty action heroine. Yet above all else this is director Guy Ritchie’s gig with some quite remarkable visual flourishes that enhance the wealth of action sequences and really stamp his identity on the movie. He’s come a long way since Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and has grown into a director with real intelligence and imagination.
The story does get a tad confusing and over-complicated at times, and the comedy is laid on a touch thick for my liking. Yet as a follow-up to an already impressive adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary icon – this is every bit as good as that movie was, and in Moriarty has a villain that actually gives Holmes a run for his money this time around.
I will always say you can’t go wrong with Robert Downey Jr, arguable one of the most gifted and enjoyable to watch actors of his generation, he often livens up even the weakest movies and when script, character and actor come together it can be something to behold (Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang anyone?), so when I heard he was stepping into the shoes of the East End sleuth, I was more than confident he would deliver the goods. Less confident was I when I heard that Guy Ritchie was at the helm, following his awful return to cockney-geezer gangster movie with the lamentable Rocknrolla.
Yet I shouldn’t have been too worried. The story has Holmes and his faithful crime fighting friend Dr Watson (a brilliant Jude Law) in turn of the century London up against a disgraced Lord who dabbles in black magic, and set forth solving a mystery after said Lord seemingly cheats death. What impressed me was that instead of making Holmes some sort of action-hero (for the most part), the script focused on his genius crime solving methods and intricate eye for details and clues, delivered effortlessly by an excellent Downey Jr. Law lends support as a tougher, more modern interpretation of Watson closer to Conan Doyle’s original character than the bumbling old man you may be used to, and with Mark Strong on hand as the sinister Lord, the cast is fleshed out and jumping off the screen. Love interest Rachel McAdams offers a spunky career thief and someone to outwit Holmes but any bed hopping is thankfully avoided as the two instead choose to spar and bicker endlessly. Ritchie’s film is full of style, with a great soundtrack and some brilliant period detail. He also handles the action masterfully, which did surprise me, but proves that Snatch wasn’t just a fluke.
The old story of the Templars and shady secret organisations may be a cheap villainous cliché nowadays, and Mark Strong is getting a little too familair as a bad guy (I almost expected Hit Girl to turn up). Also at times some set pieces (such as the warehouse fire) seem rather random and a little old fashioned. Yet these are small gripes in what is otherwise a very well put together movie that is sure to spawn a franchise.
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