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Robert Downey Jr’s manic, mischievous, unexpectedly kick-ass detective returns for a sequel that is even more knockabout and irreverent than its predecessor.

However, the offbeat touches that seemed charmingly quirky first time around are now in danger of being done to death. Downey Jr spends so much time prancing around in a variety of disguises in the film’s first half that it’s a wonder the plot ever gets going.

When the story does, though, it turns into a rip-roaring adventure revolving around Holmes’ efforts to thwart his criminal nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is scheming to propel Europe into war through a wave of bombings and assassinations across the continent.

Along the way, director Guy Ritchie stages the action with rumbustious vigour, giving Downey Jr’s Bond-like Holmes the chance to deploy as much brawn as brain. Jude Law has plenty of moments to shine, too, as Holmes’ put-upon Watson, Harris supplies quietly sinister, understated villainy and Noomi Rapace adds some feisty back-up.