Puerile, imbecilic and imbued with the kind of casual 1970s sitcom homophobia that reads all male friendships as somehow suspect, this slack-jawed grossout comedy represents the nadir of Conan Doyle adaptations.
This sluggish US remake trades the generous charm of Sy’s affable screen presence for the niggling irritation of Kevin Hart. Everything that was already wrong with the original film – its sentimentality, its simplicity – is magnified.
Most irritating is the murder scene itself, which sees both women stripping nude, seemingly in order for the camera to leer more effectively at their bodies rather than to spare them getting their petticoats bloodied.
For me, the moment where it all came together was during Blunt’s haunting rendition of The Place Where Lost Things Go, a heartbreaking lullaby that has something of the spine-tingling melancholy charm of Feed the Birds. Watching this sequence, I noticed I had started crying, and realised that I was safe – the movie’s spell was working and the magic was still here.
There’s lots to love here, not least the animation itself, which uses split screens, Ben-Day dots and onomatopoeic text that mimic the tactile experience of reading physical comics – panels, hatching and primary colours intact and ready to leap off the page.
This sporadically arresting slice of grand guignol takes pointed swipes at misogyny while occasionally seeming to wallow in it. Perhaps its greatest sin is one of bad timing. As always with Von Trier, we can only guess whether that sin is intentional or ironic.
The film’s critiques are unimaginative, tutting at how territories attack first in order to consolidate power, as well as the spectacle of war itself, bystanders crowding the balconies of the ship-like city, shrieking as guns and lasers fire at the wastelands below.
Based on the true story of a group of Swedish men who competed in the synchronised swimming world championship, Swimming With Men is reminiscent of The Full Monty, its feelgood climax landing with a welcome, if gentle, splash.
This is pure genre exploitation – a gleefully gory revenge flick that leaves its small-town streets awash with blood. It may also be one of the smartest, most perceptive commentaries on a contemporary society distorted and magnified by online hysteria that you are likely to wince your way through.