Once Sherlock Holmes raked in over half a billion dollars at the international box office, it didn’t take a genius to deduce that a sequel would be forthcoming. It was elemen... inevitable, really.
What one might not have predicted was that it would actually outshine its predecessor - which was none too shabby to begin with - in terms of action and excitement, at least.
It’s 1891 and Sherlock Holmes has somehow established a link between a series of bombings in Europe and the sudden demise of key industry figures across the globe.
That link is Cambridge maths professor James Moriarty (Harris of TV’s Mad Men), a world renowned mastermind with an evil streak the length of the Large Hadron Collider.
Unfortunately, Holmes is so wrapped up in his investigation that he forgets to arrange a stag party for his former partner-in-crimefighting, Watson (Law), who’s getting married in the morning.
Still, when a Cossack assassin shows up at their ‘gentlemen’s club’, the night turns out to be more memorable than they expected.
But no sooner has the honeymoon started for the new Mrs Watson (Kelly Reilly) than her husband and his best man are totalling the train and off to wreck half of Europe in a bid to save the world.
Also up to their necks in the intrigue are Holmes’ more conventionally eccentric brother Mycroft (Fry), his old girlfriend Irene (Rachel McAdams), and Gypsy fortune teller Madam Simza (original Dragon Tattoo girl Noomi Rapace in her first English-speaking role).
Of course, to win the ultimate mind game with Moriarty, Holmes must rely on all his powers of deduction, observation, prognostication and – since they are without doubt the biggest pair of know-alls on the planet - pontification.
Yet while his experiments into 'urban camouflage' show promise, a master of disguise he is not. But, being a three-in-one mix of Withnail, James Bond and Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark, Downey’s Holmes is more than up to the task.
Even if the adventure wasn’t brimming with humour, invention and derring-do, it’s Downey’s bold take on such a well-loved (and defined) literary hero that is bound to make any addition to the franchise worth a watch.
Ritchie also stamps his mark on proceedings, creating a real sense of urgency while adding Lock-Stocky impact to the fisticuffs and gunplay with well-deployed close-ups and super slo-mo.
At times, the action is almost operatic. And not just the bit at the Paris Opera. When artillery fire reduces a forest to matchwood, it’s like Sam Peckinpah just broke into The Matrix.
Indeed, there’s lots for cineastes to appreciate, from the sprinkling of movie in-jokes (including a bit of wise-assery to the tune of Two Mules For Sister Sara) to the exceptional production design, stylishly realised by cinematographer Phillippe Rousselet.
For everyone else, it’s simply a rollicking blockbuster of the highest calibre.