The first time Downey and Law teamed up as Holmes and Watson was a fun lark. There was enough Ninteenth Century verisimilitude to keep the left half of my brain happy, and enough Twenty-First Century action and humor to please the right half of my brain. It was a good film, if not truly great. But it didn’t have any specific flaws, which is saying something.
The sequel hews a bit closer to the Holmesian mythology, with Sherlock in an epic battle of wits with his nemesis, Professor James Moriarity. That’s not to say there aren’t over-the-top action sequences, filled with director Guy Ritchie’s hallucinatory use of shifting film speeds and eccentric camera moves. One sequence in the back half of the film does a remarkable job showing the audience what the term “firearm” means, in so many of its manifestations.
With Rachel McAdams reduced to something of a cameo in this film, the “damsel in distress” role is filled by Noomi Rapace (no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either), an actress better known as the Swedish Lisbeth Salander. She doesn’t add anything particularly to the chemistry of the film, since she’s merely a plot device. The real addition is Jared Harris who plays Moriarity with such cold-hearted ruthlessness you can’t help but be mesmerized when he’s on screen. (This is a significant step up from being “Older Will Robinson” in the Lost in Space movie.)
I still can’t say this is a great film, but I really enjoyed it. It was a bit of a slow starter, but the ending was well worth it.