Once again, Guy Ritchie has served up a bombastic interpretation of Sherlock Holmes which will undoubtedly have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle purists squirming in their seats. That disclaimer notwithstanding, anyone open-minded enough to forgive the blasphemous action sequences is in for a cinematic treat every bit as cerebral as it is visually captivating.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively. And Jared Harris has joined the cast to play the pair's diabolical archenemy, the inscrutable Professor James Moriarty.
At the point of departure, we find Holmes in the midst of throwing a bawdy bachelor party for his loyal sidekick who is set to marry a fetching lass named Mary (Kelly Reilly) the very next morning. However, after the wedding, the newlyweds' travel plans go immediately courtesy of a comedy of errors in which the bride is unceremoniously tossed off a train leaving her hubby and Sherlock to share the honeymoon suite aboard the Trans Europe Express.
It's just as well, anyway, given the fact that the perspicacious Holmes has been the only detective able to connect the dots among a series of recent slayings, including the murders of an Indian cotton tycoon, a Chinese opium trader and an American Steel magnate, as well as some suspicious bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna. The super sleuth has figured out not only that it must be the work of Moriarty but that the maniacal madman might be trying to trigger an international incident.
Next, a frenetically-paced, cat-and-mouse caper unfolds in which the protagonists chase the endlessly-clever professor from France to Germany to Switzerland. Along the way, they are assisted in this endeavor by Holmes' hulking brother (Stephen Fry) and a gypsy fortune teller (Noomi Rapace) with the proverbial heart of gold.
Just brace yourself for the sort of stylized, high-impact fare for which director Ritchie is best known. Still, besides the bravado and over-the-top derring-do, the adventure does also allow for intellectual interludes during which Sherlock and his nemesis match wits in a rather refined fashion.
Welcome to the 21st Century edition of Sherlock Holmes, a well-rounded gent as likely to flex his brawn as his brain!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for drug use and intense violence.
In English and French with subtitles.
Running time: 129 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
See a trailer for Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows