Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (2011)

Explosions. Gypsies. Gunfights. There’s a lot going on in Sherlock Holmes’ second big screen sleuth-‘em-up. But to director Guy Ritchie’s credit, Game Of Shadows never loses sight of the thing that made the first Holmes so explosive – the crotchety interplay between the titular detective and his eye-rolling sidekick. Who knew that homoeroticism could be so lucrative?

Clearly the minds behind Shadows do. Whereas the Holmes/Watson bromance of the first film felt almost like a happy mistake, here Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law’s married couple-aping bickering is cranked up another notch. To the extent that the duo even sweep the ballroom, hand in hand, for a brief musical interlude. Because yes, Shadows is all about this twittering twosome. Sure, Noomi Rapace (of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame) has been recruited as a French gypsy, but even she ends up merely staring at her quarrelsome male companions in wonder and bewilderment.

Thank goodness, then, for Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who ensures that this isn’t a game without purpose. Like Holmes himself, you’d need a ball of wool and a very big wall to fully understand Shadow’s convoluted, runaway train of a plotline. But that’s OK, because with Moriarty established as Holmes’ foe early on, we know that wherever this wild goose chase is going, it’s all going to come to a climax with Holmes going giant brain to giant brain against Professor M.

Game Of Shadows is a far more assured film than its predecessor. Though the action set-pieces are plentiful, it knows when to take a breather. The humour is also pricklier, with Stephen Fry landing some chucklesome barbs as Sherlock’s flouncing brother. Who cares if it’s all completely ludicrous? Who cares if Holmes seems more psychic than cleverly deductive? In Ritchie’s film, even the mystery plays second fiddle to Downey Jr and Law’s verbal (and occasionally physical) tête-à-tête, meaning even if you haven’t got a clue what’s going on, you’ll be having a rollicking good time anyway. 4/5