Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a film that does about what you’d expect from a sequel that finally hits theaters almost ten years after its predecessor – it gives the audience more of the same and not a whole lot more. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return to split the writing and directing duties and bring the same visually bombastic style that made the first movie resonate with audiences and fans.
The sequel takes place in the same world and once again tells its noir vignettes through multiple character point-of-views full of gratuitous violence, over-the-top vulgarity, and the black and white comic book panel style interspersed with splashes of color for effect.
Much of the original cast returns as well, and thankfully the nine years since the original Sin City have been kind to those actors (and are also easily covered up by CG) so no one feels too out of place. Fan favorite Marv (Mickey Rourke) is just as insane and unpredictable as he was the first time around as he bashes skulls and swigs whiskey in his usually entertaining way.
Jessica Alba is given much more to do this time around as her character Nancy finally lets Sin City and the loss of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) corrupt her. It can be a bit confusing as to when the stories in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For take place, because obviously this particular story takes place after the first film, but other segments, including a pre-gold eye Manute (Dennis Haysbert replacing the late Michael Clark Duncan), take place notably before the events of Sin City.
The notable new cast are actually a nice step up in my eyes, and add the few factors of the film that somewhat outdo the original Sin City. Josh Brolin was born to play a character in these films with his square jaw and lined face, and he takes the focus of the movie, playing the dangerously smitten Dwight. Dwight can’t say no to his ex-lover Eva (played conveniently by Eva Green) and when she comes back calling, he gets sucked into a scheme that may find him in over his head.
Eva Green yet again steals every scene, just as she did in 300: Rise of an Empire, and looks stunning with the black-and-white contrast mixed with her red lips and green eyes. She’s clearly having fun in her career right now and relishes playing outlandish, strong and not always virtuous women.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is the other major new addition and brings one of the more noir-ish storylines as Johnny, a poker player that’s on a roll with revenge on his mind. His clash with the returning Powers Boothe as Senator Roark has a bit of old school cool that ended up being one of my favorite portions of the film.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For suffers from many of the same problems that I had with the first film, namely a severe imbalance in the quality in effects and artistic values. Some scenes, such as a sequence that sees Marv beat up some bad guys from the point-of-view of the camera following him through windows in a mansion, are quite brilliantly directed by Rodriguez. Then we have scenes like one with Marv and Nancy on motorcycles that looks so goofy and poor that it’s laughable. I know Rodriguez likes to straddle the “camp” line, but scenes like this take away a lot of the artisic argument for these films.
Additionally, the stories and characters get so excessive or extreme, just for sake of being shocking, and end up ultimately feeling immature and fake. They are speaking to the raging hormone fanboy audience that prefers more colorful than usual language and writhing women – not that there isn’t a place for this type of storytelling, but it will certainly take down an otherwise intelligently original film.
If you see the film in 3D, it’s not all bad, and some scenes work quite well due to the added CG in every scene which offers subtle depth, but doesn’t become distracting. That being said, I would almost never recommend 3D and aside from that, there’s not a whole lot that would warrant a trip to the theater for this one.
Fans of the original film will find Sin City: A Dame to Kill For will satisfy those same distinct tastes for stylized violence and larger-than-life pulp characters. But even with some exciting new additions to the cast, the film never goes beyond the trappings of the original film and rarely, if ever, does anything better.