Starring: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Jessica Alba (Machete), Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon), Eva Green (Casino Royale), Rosario Dawson (Clerks II), Powers Boothe (The Avengers), Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Directors: Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) & Frank Miller (The Spirit)
Writer: Frank Miller
Runtime: 1 hour 42 minutes
Release Date: 22 August (US), 25 August (UK)
Sin City was an aesthetic achievement back when it came out, being easily the most accurate page-to-screen adaptation of a comic book ever made whilst creating a distinctive and unforgettable atmosphere and style that many have tried to emulate. But that was nine years ago; tastes have changed, two cast members have died, and Frank Miller has only gotten more insane. Even after all that, Rodriguez and Miller have persevered and finally delivered A Dame to Kill For as promised. Better late than never I suppose, but was it all worth it in the end?
Like the first film, there are multiple stories here and I’m going to judge them all individually. “Just Another Saturday Night” is very inconsequential with little meaning or purpose, but it does quickly reel you back into Basin City and reintroduce Marv (Rourke) in a satisfying way. “The Long Bad Night” is probably the best story out of the bunch: a simple tale of pride and honour versus greed and power. It’s not the most original of tales but it mainly works thanks to the efforts of Gordon-Levitt and Boothe, though I did find its conclusion somewhat rushed and anti-climactic. The eponymous “A Dame to Kill For” takes up most of the running time, and by ‘take up’ I mean ‘engulf’. It’s a basic femme fatale story without much new to offer, and it could have easily been simplified to give more weight to the more needing stories. It’s not exactly a good sign when your main story is your weakest, but that is the case here. Finally, the movie comes to a close with “Nancy’s Last Dance”, which could have been the most interesting story if it had any meat to it. The story quickly resolves itself before it really has a chance to start, almost like the whole thing was an afterthought. As in the original, the dialogue is typical Frank Miller; very pulpy and stylised with lots of fragmented sentences and people comparing the city to things, which does add to the cool aura of the picture but does also lead to some odd line readings. The stories don’t flow as well as the first and the pacing lags behind too, making this 100 minute film feel at least twenty minutes longer if not more.
Rodriguez and Miller have assembled an all-star cast of familiar and new faces, as well some replacements, with mixed results. Mickey Rourke truly is Marv and is clearly having a ball here, relishing every little moment he gets and it’s his presence that keeps the movie alive during its duller moments. As said before, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s suave charm seems very fitting to the landscape of Basin City and he’s a fun addition to the cast. Josh Brolin, taking over for Clive Owen, does a decent job of acting but I never really felt he was ever the same person as Owen no matter how much they dress him up. Powers Boothe gets a lot more to do here than he did in the first, and his menacing performance is another highlight. Eva Green eats up the scenery as Ava Lord, going full-on in more ways than one in a performance that bares more than she did in 300: Rise of an Empire but not quite as entertaining. Jessica Alba gives one of the better performances of her career here but that’s not saying much, whilst Bruce Willis sleepwalks through his minor role. There are also plenty of cameos sprinkled throughout from some odd faces, but I’ll leave those to you.
As with the dialogue, the film has all the typical Miller aesthetics: dark empty streets, over the top violence and lots and lots of women dressed in questionable outfits. Love it or hate it (I can tolerate it in small doses), it’s what Sin City is and it delivers it. The problem is that we’ve all seen it before; the film does exactly what the first one did, taking away nothing but not adding anything either. Other than the minor improvements to green screen technology and the addition of 3-D (which admittedly does add to certain moments), it looks exactly like the first one. Same design, same camera and lighting tricks, same score. As I said before, we’ve moved on and what was impressive a decade ago is now somewhat passé, and so by sticking so close to the original aesthetic it actually diminishes the quality.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is like a magician who only does one magic trick; you’ll admit that it is an impressive trick, but once you’ve seen it there’s no reason to see it again. It often feels like the table scraps of the first film, which basically used up all the best material and that doesn’t leave much for this follow-up to work with. It certainly has its moments and die-hard fans of the first one will still get a kick out of it, but I think this is a major case of too little too late. Never say never, but I think this return to Basin City may also be our last.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/10