Nine years we’ve waited and a lengthy wait it was, except perhaps for those of us that forgot about the notion that a sequel to Sin City was even an option. Given that the first film hardly covered all of the storylines from Frank Miller‘s source material, though, it was bound to happen at some point, so why not a decade later?
Fan reaction on Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is split. Some say it’s better, some say it’s worse. Director Robert Rodriguez is back, as is Miller himself, along with that stylized, “graphic novel” look that’s still somewhat fascinating. Alas, I’m part of the group that says that things were more fascinating the first time, not only in terms of visuals.
Once more the film is composed of different segments, each with its own grim tale set in the same gritty, film noir-type dystopia. The film opens by reuniting us with Marv, Mickey Rourke‘s deformed, indestructible and completely merciless character from the last movie. Awakening from being knocked out, he tries to recall a fight he had with some frat boys earlier that same night and doesn’t do much else until he appears in the other stories later.
The story of the title, A Dame To Kill For, stars Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy. No fear, the reason Clive Owen‘s character from the first film now has the face of Josh Brolin does have an explanation. Dwight is contacted, and eventually met by his ex-girlfriend Ava (Eva Green) who’s now dating a mighty tycoon played by Marton Csokas. Ava tells his former man that she is afraid, before being escorted home. Fearing for the worst, Dwight decides to take matters into his own hand and try to save the dame that’s worth killing for. Things head south, Dwight gets into trouble with evil forces, he teams up with Marv for a bit, and we’re eventually reunited with Gail the prostitute (Rosario Dawson) and fan-favorite Miho (Jamie Chung) from the first Sin City. What a delight.
There’s also The Long Bad Night, which is split into two parts and stars Joseph-Gordon Levitt as a gambler, Johnny, who comes face-to-face with the corrupt and fearsomely powerful Senator Roark (Powers Booth); a minor character from the last movie, now the main antagonist. Defeating him in a poker game gets Johnny on his bad side, which eventually leads to worse things. And then of course there’s the story of Nancy the stripper (Jessica Alba), a much more brooding and violent young lady after the death of her savior and lover Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis in his first role as a ghost since 16 years back). She craves revenge and she’ll get it by killing Senator Roark. The chap gets around.
Each tale has its own share of supporting characters and occasionally they will overlap by featuring characters from one segment in another, even main ones. We got characters portrayed by the likes of Stacey Keach (whose hilariously grotesque character Wallenquist is a joy to behold), Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Lady Gaga for some reason, Alexa Vega, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, and even Christopher Lloyd. I’m not sure what I thought of Dennis Haysbert as the vicious giant Manute, another character you’ll remember from the last installment. It’s not so much that I dislike his performance, but more that I’m reminded that Michael Clarke Duncan is with us no longer.
Worth noting is that Manute does not yet have his golden eye when we first see him in this film, so the film is partially a prequel whilst bits of it are a sequel. Most likely, viewers won’t find this all too confusing, especially not if they’re familiar with the source material and the chronological order of its storylines.
The film itself is alright, but up to par with its predecessor it’s certainly not. There are many uneventful and slow moments, mostly in the titular storyline, and although the stylized look of the film is still quite the sight, the style isn’t always put to interesting use during these particular scenes to compensate for the lack of beautifully meaningless and bloody violence. When we do get that, however, it’s quite glorious.
The performances can also be appreciated. Best of all is probably Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, who knocks it miles out of the park with every scene he appears in. Powers Boothe’s expanded villain role is enjoyable as well, and Jessica Alba’s updated thirst for vengeance made her a great deal more interesting this time around. Other noteworthy greats include a very entertaining Mickey Rourke, a sexy but threatening Eva Green and of course, good ol’ Chris Lloyd. There are some forgettable ones too, but since I don’t remember them I won’t mention them.
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is, for what it’s worth, a generally good time. Were it not for its occasional intervals of dullness, I’m confident I would have awarded it 4 out of 5 whatevers. As it stands, though, I’m giving it a 3.5 rating. Not a bad film, but truly, after a third sequel to Spy Kids, a follow-up to Machete, and now Sin City 2, one might wish that Rodriguez was spending his time on better things. Mind you, I still hope he makes that Machete In Space film.
Here is, as usual, a trailer. Feel free to avoid the pointless interlude of celebrity gossip at the end there, dear readers.