August 22, 2014 by Paul Curtin
Sin City: A Dame to Kill starts off fast and furious with Mickey Rourke returning to the strong man role of Marv that helped kick-start his career back into drive. In his long-awaited sequel, director and producer Robert Rodriguez wastes absolutely no time getting to the ass-kicking and uses these moments to show off a plethora of amazing new visual techniques that he’s learned over the years.
It’s been almost a decade since the original film brought Frank Miller’s source material to life and took us on a wild ride through the red, white, and black streets of Basin City. And with another star-studded cast, a bigger budget, and beautiful 3D snow falling out of the screen and into the theater during Marv’s opening “Just Another Saturday Night” story, it dawns on you as you begin watching… could this sequel actually be better than the original?
Like Rourke, A-lister Bruce Willis is also back; unfortunately, the two are no longer the stars and just tag along with other characters on the side. Unlike its predecessor that had clear-cut single stories told one after another, A Dame to Kill For’s pacing is constantly all over the place as the movie jumps back and forth between prequel and sequel, assuming that viewers have seen the first film and can keep up.
These jumps in time and story wouldn’t be so hard to follow if it weren’t for multiple actors with pivotal roles from the original not returning for various reasons. Michael Clarke Duncan has been replaced by Dennis Haysbert, but up until he loses his eye towards the end, it’s not clear if the actors are supposed to be the same character. Haysbert is a solid choice to replace Duncan after his untimely death, but after spending the past decade as the face of All-State Insurance, it’s hard to take him seriously.
The same confusion occurs with Josh Brolin’s character, Dwight, who was played by Clive Owen in the first Sin City. At one point towards the end of the film, Dwight has work done on his face to try to make this transformation obvious to the viewer; instead, it becomes confusing as to why he thinks longer hair is now going to fool his enemies into thinking he’s somebody else.
Powers Boothe thankfully returns as the evil Senator Roark and is as good as ever. But it’s newcomers Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who make the sequel exciting. Gordon-Levitt, who plays a character similar to his underrated starring turn in Brick, is a cocky young card shark looking to win big over the old pro Roark. Of course, winning big over the senator isn’t an easy task, and this leads to some squeamish scenes and a surprisingly enjoyable cameo from Christopher Lloyd.
JGL’s “The Long Bad Night” story is the most dramatic and intriguing of the four with a nice twist at the end, but the way in which it’s awkwardly crammed before and after the main Dame storyline makes you completely forget about it midway through the movie. And the same can be said about Jessica Alba’s “Nancy’s Last Dance” story — which is a continuation of one of the best stories in the original. Although the ads for A Dame to Kill For would lead you to believe that Jessica Alba is the star of the film, her subsequent tale of a stripper who never actually strips and is now hell-bent on revenge makes for a mediocre finale.
As a result of Alba’s underwhelming story, by contrast, the real star of the film ends up being Eva Green in A Dame to Kill For‘s titular role. Green, who essentially plays the same role she just did in 300: Rise of an Empire (another sequel that barely justified its existence and took too long to make), stands out as the sinister siren villainess and easily makes the film live up to its name and earns it an R rating by spending most of her screen time naked. With or without clothes, Green is irresistible and ruthless.
Part of what makes Green so seductive is Miller’s brilliant use of a high contrasting black-and-white palette with the occasional splashes of color to emphasize points of focus. Seductive ruby red lips shine like the finish of a freshly painted car, emerald green eyes pierce like a viper getting ready to strike, and angelic blonde hair glows in the night to express innocence. Miller is without question a visionary artist, and Rodriguez has once again masterfully brought his vision’s to life.
While the visual effects are again spectacular, Miller and Rodriguez’s pulp-noir writing style relies too heavily on the over-inflated characters and art styles to carry the film. Even with its beautiful and unique use of monochrome, in the end everything just becomes a little too familiar and tiresome. A Dame to Kill For is just another Sin City movie. Not as exciting as the wild ride the original took viewers on, the sequel still provides an entertaining second trip… but if this is the best Sin City has left to offer, maybe this should be its last ride. Sin City: A Dame to Kill for gets 3 out of 5 stars. (Good)