Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) Director: Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie is a twit. We all know that. He likes men being men, punching, bravado and bromance. His early films were trying to be too clever for my liking - wonky cameras, fast editing, gruff scripts and overtly manly men doing masculine things. And then came Sherlock Holmes. Surprisingly his bromance themes, fisticuffs, and loads of blokes who look like boxers transferred exceptionally well into the 1890s, much of it due to the buzzing chemistry and lines between Robert Downey Jnr's Holmes and Jude Law's Watson. Ritchie's recognisable style made this version of Sherlock Holmes thrilling, comedic and a rip-roaring tale of 'brotherly' love for a wider audience than he'd ever had the hope of targeting before. He's done even better with the next installment - Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - and I reluctantly admit that he may be a twit, but he's a very talented twit.

...A Game of Shadows is bigger, louder and darker than the first movie. Within the opening, a main character is dead. Holmes and Watson this time have to tackle the devious antics of Professor James Moriarty, Holmes' formidable foe played delightfully by Jared Harris. He literally purrs his words out - highly charismatic but deadly. Bombings, murders and all sorts of high jinks are happening throughout Europe and Holmes/Watson are convinced that Moriarty is behind them. They set out to track him down, although the small matter of Watson's wedding to Mary (Kelly Reilly) also needs to be dealt with. This is where the chemistry between Downey and Law really enthralls - Watson's stag night goes disastrously wrong, with Holmes getting him to the church just in time in a Hangover type style. On their wedding night - on a train to Brighton for their honeymoon - Holmes also throws Watson's wife off the train into a river. It's for her own safety of course, but what plays out is Holmes rolling around on the floor with Watson - a tight bromantic wedding night grapple. "Lay down with me Watson" adds to the humour here.

The locations in the film are glorious, especially the final scenes in Switzerland. One of the key action pieces takes place in Germany, at Moriarty's weapons factory. Watson rescues Holmes from being tortured by Moriarty, and they escape into the woods with their gypsy allies (more on Noomi Rapace's Simza later) with all manners of arsenal being fired after them. It's jaw-droppingly FANTASTIC. Bullets cut through and blast trees in slowmo, shit explodes LOUDLY, even down to the finer details of a bullet grazing Watson's jacket. It's terrifying and has you on the edge of your seat. If Ritchie stopped being such a twit and really put his mind to making a 'serious' film, he could make the greatest war film EVER. IT IS THAT GOOD.

Stephen Fry pops up as Holmes' posh and acidic brother Mycroft, and he does a good turn. What is disappointing is the lack of female representation - sure, we have Watson's wife but she's pretty and twee and doesn't get to do much. We additionally have Noomi Rapace's Simza who isn't given much - she can defend herself and kick butt, and it would have been nice to have seen more made of this. It's all about the boys though, isn't it? Ritchie still has this down as a bloke's movie - perhaps he thinks all girls should be watching the next Kristen Wiigg film. But what he does, he does very well and it's a joy to watch. I'm not tired of his Holmes and Watson yet, and long may they bounce off each other.
4/5 knuckledusters