Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

by Charles Nash

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday August 22, 2014

Robert Rodriguez stars in 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For'
Robert Rodriguez stars in 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For'  (Source:Dimension Films)

When "Sin City" was released back in 2005, it was something of a revelation for film-adaptations of graphic novels: A wildly over-the-top celebration of depravity that was as indefensibly amoral as it was gorgeous to behold. The film's various vignettes not only paid homage to classic film noirs through its stunning black-and-white visualizations and overcooked monologues, but they also served as love letters to trashy B-pictures through stylized sequences of ultra-violence and lurid sexuality, transcending comic-book pulp into cinematic art.

It's unfortunate to report, then, that the film's long-awaited sequel -- nine years in the making -- "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" ultimately feels stale and monotonous, despite its abundance of delicious eye-candy.

Written once again by Frank Miller, creator of the series of graphic novels and co-director of both films along with the equally gifted filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, "A Dame to Kill For" adapts the titular literary installment to the screen while also supplying two original stories composed specifically for this film (despite the fact that there are a few other volumes of Miller's comics that could have been adapted here, but oh well).

Much like its predecessor, "A Dame to Kill For" consists of three episodic stories that intertwine with one another. Unlike the first film, however, most of these narratives don't make a whole lot of sense in regards to how they're supposed to fit into the overall timeline of this world. The fact that these plot-lines correlate with one another as well as the first three stories told in the 2005 original makes it feel extremely convoluted, to say the least, and will probably make it difficult for anyone unfamiliar with the first film to follow exactly what's going on.

"A Dame to Kill For" is as beautiful to look at as its predecessor, but a surprising lack of audacity makes this trip to the mean streets a far less intoxicating experience.

In the film's titular segment, a string of unfortunate events befall Dwight (Josh Brolin, taking over for Clive Owen) after his former flame, Ava (the electrifying Eva Green), contacts him four years after their steamy love affair. Despite living within a neo-noir universe, apparently no one in Sin City has seen "Double Indemnity" or "Body Heat," but Green sinks her teeth into the role of this wicked seductress with such sensuous vigor that it's a blast to watch her camp it up as a ferocious femme fatale.

As for the other two other vignettes, one centers on Joseph Gordon-Levitt's reckless gambler, Johnny, who plays his cards all too well against the tyrannical Senator Roark (Powers Booth) resulting in tragic consequences, while the final (and weakest) story focuses on Jessica Alba's spunky stripper, Nancy, seeking revenge against Roark for the death of Bruce Willis' Hartigan, who saved her life in the previous film and posthumously shows up multiple times for rather pointless scenes of exposition.

Several actors reprise their roles from the first film and appear throughout the film's various exploits, some with better results than others. Mickey Rourke is back as the gruff, gargoyle-esque Marv, who adds a much-needed dose of humor that this installment lacks, but other characters, such as Rosario Dawson's sexy, badass prostitute, Gail, are highly underutilized this time around; Gail herself serves only as an object and plot-device, as opposed to the strong, vibrant character that she was in the original.

In terms of its visual style, "A Dame to Kill For" is as beautiful to look at as its predecessor, but the weaker characters, more conventional story arcs and surprising lack of audacity make this trip to the mean streets a far less intoxicating experience. Even when it comes to the trashy pleasures of what made the first film so enjoyable, this installment seems off in many ways. The violent action sequences seem choppier, the sexuality seems sleazier, and there's a surprising lack of spirit despite its array of technical achievements.

For someone who remains infatuated with the 2005 original in all of its sick, twisted glory, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is a pretty big disappointment. As a sequel, prequel, and stand-alone film, it's slick, but it lacks the black, bleeding heart of the first film, making it feel more phoned-in than deliriously authentic. Unfortunately, Miller and Rodriguez just didn't walk down the right back-alley this time around.