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Winner: Mission, but only by a hair. The "tech doesn't work" bit is refreshing and funny the first time it happens, but it keeps cropping up and quickly begins to feel like a cheap filmmaking crutch: Flip "Off" Switch To Increase Tension. On the other hand, Holmes' constant re-use of the "Sherlock-Vision" bullet-time effect is flat-out interminable. The only thing worse than a long, tedious, movie-padding dull action scene is having to watch it twice.

Baffling Waste Of A Perfectly Good Actor From The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:

(This is where the similarities get downright absurd)

Mission Impossible: Michael Nyqvist has the above-described Bond Villain role, which is thin to begin with and he's given no opportunity to bring greater depth to. He's bad, he's crazy and he inexplicably gains previously unmentioned superhuman kung fu skills so the film can have a mano-a-mano showdown between him and Cruise.

Sherlock Holmes: Noomi Rapace, the original big screen Lisbeth Salander, makes her big Hollywood debut as a Gypsy fortune teller who gets pulled along on Holmes and Watson's adventure for an extremely tenuous reason, then proceeds to have basically nothing to do otherwise. Both Holmes movies are trying to have it both ways - jokingly playing up the quasi-romantic chemistry between the two male leads while trotting out this or that female sidekick to make sure we know they're kidding - but this time around it's thuddingly obvious. She has zero reason to be here.

Winner: Holmes, sort of. Rapace at least gets to prove some mettle as a plausible female action lead, which Hollywood is now in somewhat short supply of. Nyqvist, on the other hand, has the same "fading into the scenery" problem he had in the Tattoo movies, where he tended to come off as that guy who was also there, next to the quirk-riddled, showier Salander character.

Final Battle

Mission Impossible: The main hero and the main villain - separated from a different, less-interesting fight involving their respective sidekicks - get into a brutal fistfight on a perilously high automated parking garage. Despite both men being ostensibly human, one a highly-trained spy, the other a professor, they both sprout Michael Meyers-level endurance and super strength in order to prolong the fight - which the villain attempts to end with a suicidal plunge.

Sherlock Holmes: The main hero and the main villain - separated from a different, less-interesting fight involving their respective sidekicks - get into a brutal fistfight on a perilously high balcony overlooking a Swiss waterfall. Despite both men being ostensibly human, one a detective trained in the martial arts, the other a professor (and onetime college boxing champ), they both summon up versions of Holmes' previously displayed fight-predicting foresight in order to prolong the fight - which the hero attempts to end with a suicidal plunge.

Winner: Mission. The film isn't very good, mostly thanks to a shallow screenplay with a story that even its paper-thin characters can't pretend to care about, but its saving grace is that animation-directing demigod Brad Bird turns out to be a great director of live-action ... er ... action. The two middle-aged actors pounding away at each other like a pair of Terminators is an absurdly dumb sequence, but the staging is crisp, clean, free of mindless shaky-cam and makes great use of the automated-garage location.

By contrast, the fight scenes in Holmes are truly awful - unimaginative fistfights and shootouts drenched in every stylistic quirk and editing trick director Guy Ritchie can throw at them in a vain attempt to keep things watchable.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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