Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The game that is afoot in this entertaining Sherlock Holmes sequel, again directed by stylo-slo mo Brit action jock, Guy Ritchie, is twofold.
One: Follow the noisy, grimy template of 2009’s first movie and keep super-dick Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) looking as scruffy, rumpled and unwashed as ever while tumbling about in hyper drive as though he’s Charlie Chaplin on speed. You know, as if cars, trains and other mechanical wonders have all been invented in the late 19th century, but apparently not the bathtub.
Two: Give Holmes a worthy opponent (actually his ultimate “Napoleon of Crime” nemesis in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle books) – a brilliant villain named Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris from the TV series, “Mad Men”) who’s like the evil flip side to the sniffy sleuth.
Okay, there’s one more big game in Sherlock 2.0.
Three: Develop the Holmes-Dr John Watson’s mad man-straight man bromance to something beyond two mates who look like drunken contenders for “The Hangover: Early London Edition”.
In other words, show the audience how much Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Watson take sadistic pleasure in bickering with each other.
The good doctor, to Holmes’ lonely-puppy dog discomfort, goes on his honeymoon with his new wife, Mary (Kelly Reilly reprising her role as Watson’s feisty girlfriend from the first flick).
But deep down – especially after Holmes considerately sends the poor gal plunging out of a speeding train into a river below to remove her from danger – those two best chaps are really two funky dudes searching for a room.
Here’s the deal.
This new Sherlock is highly enjoyable and in the face-off between Holmes and Moriarty, quite stimulating. The detective is endearingly eccentric, the psycho ruthlessly calm, and the two brainiacs get a kick out of challenging each other in chess like it’s an intellectual cockfight.
Moriarty, a mathematics professor hiding in plain sight, conjures up an elaborate plan to assassinate a prissy VIP, cause a world war and profit from the burgeoning arms sales resulting out of that.
History buffs will note that this actually sounds like the start of the real World War I, when the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria was also zapped before all hell broke loose.
The hitch in Moriarty’s nefarious grand plan? The persistent Holmes, of course, who thwarts his scheme from a crowded gambling hall to a careening train to a gypsy camp to explosions in an arms depot where bullets and bombs are dodged in balletic slow motion.
Man, you haven’t seen adversarial mano-a-mano like this since James Bond pi**ed off Goldfinger.
The first film, involving some shadowy magic society trying to control the British Empire was wild, confusing and draggy.
Seriously, up to now, I still don’t get what it was all about, but I do remember the headache that came with it.
This sequel, despite the countless distractions of the erratic Downey Jr and stoic Law jaunting through the proceedings, is much easier to decipher.
It’s one-track and sputtering, occasionally grinding to an awkward halt before picking itself up to get to the point of stopping Moriarty.
You know, just like our MRT trains.
In fact, if you’re into the sight of Downey Jr. dressed as a woman with wig, bonnet and lipstick looking like a domestic maid nightmare, there’s something for fans of Ironing Woman too.
Director Ritchie, being a bloke’s laddie from his earlier “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels” – the equivalent of a man’s man in America – must have found this very funny.
The ex-Mr. Madonna’s favourite cinematic style is to combine a gaudy vaudeville act with a clunky bar room brawl. He never lets any scene rest on your eyes long enough for him to yank if off brutally for a ghastly close-up, a slo-mo flip, or a 360-degree turnaround ideally with bullets whizzing past.
You might feel as if you’ve been tasered, but this time, it’s tolerable. For that, he has to thank Robert Downey Jr for making his pastime look like a gay old good time.
There are no women to engage Holmes romantically this time. The beauteous Rachel McAdams departs at the start of the story, while the new chick, Noomi Rapace (from the Swedish version of “The Girl With The Golden Tattoo”), is sexless as a chilli-padi gypsy who throws sharp knives.
So Holmes looks longingly upon the married Watson with all the poignancy of a free spirit stilled and loneliness of a mate who lost his best mate to a real mate.
“Oh, how I've missed you, Holmes,” exclaims Watson.
“Have you? I've barely noticed your absence,” counters Holmes with impish, lying glee.
Iron Man is great as Irony Man.
Because Downey Jr. makes it look just elementary.