Review in a Hurry: Since the first film jettisoned any hope of taking Holmes particularly seriously, it’s easier to sit back and enjoy the breezy tone and bizarre bromance between Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) in Guy Ritchie‘s less self-important sequel.
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The Bigger Picture: There isn’t much mystery to be had in the latest cinematic tale of the world’s greatest detective. As was made clear at the end of part one, we already know who the villain is behind everything bad in this world: Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), an influential scholar and friend to the prime minister. Discovering what he’s up to and how to make the charges stick are Holmes’ biggest challenges on this case. (Another famous foe from the books, ace shooter Col. Sebastian Moran, also shows up)
More difficult perhaps for our smart-mouthed sleuth is maintaining his somewhat homoerotic bond with Watson, as he attempts at every turn to ruin his BFF’s marriage and honeymoon, while simultaneously trying to save both bride and groom from the fine mess he’s gotten them into with the nutty professor. Later, Holmes dresses in drag and asks Watson to lie down with him; toward the movie’s end, they even ballroom dance together.
With Rachel McAdams‘ character reduced to a cameo, the only potential love interest here for Holmes is original Dragon Tattoo girl Noomi Rapace as a gypsy queen, yet her character is almost pointless and has little chemistry with Downey. This may be by design—the Brokeback subtext isn’t made explicit, but it’s way too obvious to be unintentional, and will surely inspire many drinking games.
Also Stephen Fry as Holmes’ smarter brother Mycroft, here fond of addressing his brother as “Shirley,” walks around nude in one scene. You have been warned.
If you’re looking for a genuine mystery movie, there are other options in theaters. But if you want a Victorian-era Lethal Weapon (Watson is the guy getting too old for this schtick, with Holmes as the crazy partner), this Game plays well and its leads are charming. Plus it mercifully eschews the first film’s formula of solving each new mystery by introducing a completely new party who’s responsible. It does keep Hans Zimmer‘s score, which was the absolute best trait to retain.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Considering how effectively Ritchie directs some bullet-time moments toward the end, as well as the pre-fight prediction moments where Holmes maps out his strategy, it’s annoying that some of the fisticuffs here are cut so fast that one suspects a cover-up of subpar choreography is at work.
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