If an hour or so after the end of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, you’re sitting having a coffee or driving home and you suddenly realise you can recall next to nothing about the movie you’ve just watched, don’t be alarmed.
Because something like this sequel to the 2009 blockbuster that refashioned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary literary detective as a sharp-witted sleuth equally at home cracking skulls as he was cracking cases isn’t built to last.
No, it’s meant to be enjoyed in the darkness of the cinema and then forgotten. Oh, it might be remembered fondly when it pops up on the telly in a few years but it’s doubtful this’ll linger too long in the memory once the credits have rolled.
Not that there’s anyone necessarily wrong with that. Not everything is designed to have enduring appeal. Some movies are here for a good time, not a long time, and A Game of Shadows provides precisely that.
Reuniting stars Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law (as Holmes and his grouchy but loyal offsider Dr Watson) and director Guy Ritchie, A Game of Shadows sees the Victorian-era duo applying their detection skills to a fiendish plot that will pit the most powerful nations against one another in an unprecedented “world war”.
Aided by gypsy fortune teller Simza (Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Holmes and Watson investigate a series of terror attacks throughout Europe and find that all the evidence points to one mastermind, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), “the Napoleon of crime”.
Unburdened by mercy or morality, Moriarty is every bit Holmes’ equal in terms of intellect. What’s more, he’s ruthless in seeing his plans for global conflict come to fruition.
Of course, that’s really just the set-up for all manner of scrapes, vividly and energetically staged by Ritchie with his usual flair, enthusiasm and technical trickery.
Frankly, though, the chemistry between Downey, Jr and Law, the former’s jaunty irreverence nicely complementing the latter’s sensible exasperation, really gives these movies their kick.
And the casting of the underrated Harris as Holmes’ nemesis is a masterstroke. Subtly conveying a seething contempt and arrogance, he’s a blackly brilliant adversary for our smarty-pants hero.