Guy Ritchie's adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's world-famous literary character most assuredly possesses an edge that no other version of Sherlock Holmes has ever had, but this fact may not be able to make up for certain foibles of the auteur's sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
With a cerebral, intially action-lacking introduction, we are reintroduced to Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the object of Holmes' desire in the first film. As he warns her that she is being followed, Irene counters that she is being followed for her own protection, leaving Holmes to fight her trio of bodyguards--after they've made dinner plans for later. This fight scene establishes the norm for the rest of Sherlock Holmes: Slowed down and speeded up editing techniques that are, at times, too manufactured. It's almost as though Ritchie and his editor, James Herbert (who also collaborated with Ritchie on Revolver, RocknRolla, and the first Sherlock Holmes), recently graduated from a trade school specializing in FinalCut and got overly excited about employing every possible method learned.
That being said, the real enjoyment of the film is not necessarily always in the visual, but in the intricacy and recondite nature of the plot as it unfolds to reveal an unprecedented rivalry between good and evil. Screenwriters Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney (yes, Dermot Mulroney's brother) pit the equally intelligent minds of Sherlock Holmes and Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris of Mad Men--he always manages to find a role where he doesn't have to have an American accent) against one another in a succinct manifestation of what happens when one's mental acuity is used for unseemly purposes.
The Mulroneys, who also co-wrote 2009's mixed reviewed Paper Man, show massive progress in the span of just two years as this is only their second major feature. Of course, their rendering of lesser famed characters from the Sherlock Holmes series, such as the gypsy Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace), is also a distinguished touch. Rapace, who played Lisbeth in the original versions of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, makes a more versatile substitute for Rachel McAdams' role as the primary female of the film.
Second only to the incisive writing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is Stephen Fry's performance as Mycroft Holmes, the witty master of the one-liner. Not to mention the memorable image of his nude ass onscreen. While a perfectly decent film, what is troubling about Sherlock Holmes is how distant Guy Ritchie's usually recognizable voice seems to be. And so, I would say that I'm somewhat disappointed in Ritchie with this particular effort. I now finally know how Madonna feels.