Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Film Review

“This one time, a while back”, to quote Stan Marsh, “I saw two men kissing in a park. That was the gayest thing I’d ever seen until I saw the cozy FM Halloween haunt.” If the little South Park resident is reading this he really needs to check out Sherlock Holmes 2, because a new benchmark has been set.

Sherlock

And by “gay” we mean fun, lively and exceptionally carefree. So, in the words of Frankie, relax and get ready for the “gayest” blockbuster of 2011.

1891. England. After revealing himself at the end of the first film, Moriarty and his evil plots take centre stage. Detective Sherlock Holmes believes the mad professor to be behind a spate of terrorist attacks and sets about trying to prove his assumptions. Unfortunatley for Holmes, he may have to take on the task without his beloved Doctor, as Watson is a few days away from walking up the aisle and out of Holmes’ life for good.

In a review for the first outing for Guy Ritchie’s retelling of the supersleuth story I ended with these words: “A sequel, inevitable now judging by the box office takings, will be most welcome. Let’s just hope Holmes and Watson actually boff in the next one.” Now, I don’t actually remember liking the first film so much to want a sequel (I’ll blame a make-believe opium addiction) but the evidence clearly shows that I did. Thankfully in reference to the last line of the review, my wish is very nearly granted.

Happily embracing – with both arms and a fair amount of heavy petting – the homoerotic subtext implicit in the first, Downey Jr. and Law attack the sequel with a zesty wink and a nod, sharing long, loving looks that wouldn’t be out of place in a Twilight film. We’re even treated to a half naked tussle to completely prevent any “they’re just really good friends” arguments.

It’s these looks and the tussles that keep the film on track. Which is great because sadly the plot doesn’t. The mystery of what Moriarty is up to couldn’t really be bigger in scale yet somehow it fails to be even a bit dramatic.

The new additions to the cast – original Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace, and the Moriarty as Hannibal Lecter, Jared Harris – are welcome but never really grab the light away from the Holmes and Watson tryst. That’s not to say the duality of the geniuses and their number twos, Sherlock versus Moriaty and Watson versus Moran, doesn’t add to the conflict, it just never eclipses the combination of Holmes and Watson.

It’s easy to see why Downey Jr. has said he’d be happy playing nothing but Iron Man and Sherlock until the man in the sky calls, with the latter offering him the chance to dress up, pull silly faces and beat the living snot out of men twice his size. No film star could want for more.

And he really does look quite fetching in a dress.

Verdict
A touching romance, this time with actual touching, A Game of Shadows will while away a couple of hours with a few good set pieces and a couple of giggles. Compared to the BBC version with Cumberbatch and Freeman, Ritchie’s effort still doesn’t have the requisite captivating plot or character sympathy, bar the central relationship, to really grab. What it does have, however, is Stephen Fry’s bottom. Which is worth a tenner of anyone’s money.

Release date: Friday December 16th

Cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Wonder Boys), Jude Law (Road to Perdition, Cold Mountain), Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo).

Director: Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch.).

Screenwriter: Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Running Time: 129 mins.