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20 December 2011

"Dangerous at Both Ends and Crafty in the Middle"

Sherlock Holmes doesn't like horses; not the Sherlock portrayed by Robert Downey Jr in Guy Ritchie's new film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, anyway. "They are dangerous at both ends...and crafty in the middle," he complains when French gypsy Simza (Noomi Rapace) provides him with a steed on which to escape to Germany. I suspect Ritchie wanted Holmes's description to apply to the movie as well but although I was entertained, SH:AGoS, to coin an acronym, felt a little bit like Pirates of the Caribbean 2: fun but a little too long and not especially coherent.

I'll admit that SH:AGoS had a lot to live up to--not just on the basis of its predecessor (which I predicted would cause expectation problems for any sequel) but also because of the excellent BBC TV series Sherlock, which I loved and which is returning to TV screens anon. There are plenty of action sequences, stylish freeze frames and down-the-barrel-of-the-gun/cannon shots, chases and hilarious scenes with Robert Downey Jr in disguise. The bromance between Holmes and Watson (Jude Law) continues and is even amplified, despite Watson's marriage to Mary (Kelly Reilly) towards the start of the film and his subsequent attempt to go to Brighton on his honeymoon. Jared Harris (known to me as Lane Pryce from Mad Men) was suitably cold, calculating and clever as Moriarty and Rapace did her best but was under-used as The Girl with the Tarot Cards and a Potentially Wicked Brother. Naturally, Stephen Fry managed to steal many of the few scenes he had, playing Holmes's brother Mycroft--Sherlock may have worn a number of creative costumes throughout the film but he couldn't top Mycroft's birthday suit...

All the right elements are present in SH:AGoS, then, but the plot felt seriously confused. Much of what I felt was build-up in the first hour or so ended up being the main plot. There definitely wasn't enough craftiness in the middle. Again, this is partly a product of wanting to watch Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock instead, with his constant and infuriating deductions and genius; Downey Jr's Holmes has brilliant moments but they seem too brief and we see more of him rushing around and getting into fights. The latter isn't necessarily worse; the former is just more my kind of thing.

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