16/12/2011 11:04 GMT | Updated 15/02/2012 05:12 GMT

REVIEW: 'Sherlock Holmes:A Game Of Shadows' - Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace,

When the first Sherlock appeared at the cinema, the welcome surprise was that Guy Ritchie, whose career had appeared to experience waning success in inverse proportion to his marital status - had NOT messed it up.

Instead, his proven metier - the swift, close-up depiction of violence and slip-of-the-eye detail put to best effect in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - seemed to have found a natural home in providing this master detective with a fresh, vivid treatment.

There's a lot more here of what we enjoyed the first time around. Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his sidekick Dr Watson (Jude Law) continue their bumbling efforts to foil Victorian villainy, using Holmes' peerless powers of deduction, Watson's resilience and loyalty - and when all that fails, a swift left hook.

This time, with an obviously bigger budget in director Guy Ritchie's purse, our pair's efforts take them much further afield than the picturesque London of the first - to Austria, Paris and, finally, the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland.

Any self-respecting Holmes-o-phile will recognise this final destination means our hero is destined for a showdown and so it proves - Moriarty is indeed in the building.

Make no mistake. With all the action around them, firing muskets, collapsing watchtowers, this is really one big bromance between Holmes and Watson. There are women around, but they are dispatched with casual abandon - in the new Mrs Watson's case, literally thrown from the train, momma-style - until they team up with exotic foreigner (played with panache by original Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace).

This makes for a Road to Morocco affair, with our team increasingly camping it up along the way. Downey Jr has all the tools of a serious actor - his face is astonishing, capable of conveying compassion, mischief, sadness, arrogance and love.

But he's also an astonishing ham, and here, aided by a dress and a fast-moving train, he's in his element. No wonder there's talk of a Some Like It Hot remake for these two.

There are some new players. As well as Rapace, Jared Harris is uncharismatic but capable as an early-revealed Moriarty. And Stephen Fry slips seamlessly into the team, and out of all his clothes - yes, really! - as Sherlock's more conventional brother Mycroft.

And Ritchie still loves his toys. Huge set pieces are shoe-horned into the narrative, with a few scenes going on a bit too long to get in all the effects, sometimes at the expense of the pace. But the stringey music zips along, and Jude Law isn't annoying. This is great, pre-Christmas family fare.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is in cinemas from today. Here are some stills from the film...