Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Be thankful we didn’t get a sequel to The Spirit instead. Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Academy Award nominees Josh Brolin and Mickey Rourke star in Robert Rodriguez’s sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Sin City A Dame to Kill ForCast of Characters:
Marv – Mickey Rourke
Nancy Callahan – Jessica Alba
Dwight McCarthy – Josh Brolin
Johnny – Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Gail – Rosario Dawson
John Hartigan – Bruce Willis
Ava Lord – Eva Green
Senator Roark – Powers Boothe
Manute – Dennis Haysbert
Joey – Ray Liotta
Goldie/Wendy – Jaime King
Wallenquist – Stacy Keach
Kroenig – Christopher Lloyd
Miho – Jamie Chung
Bob – Jeremy Piven
Mort – Christopher Meloni
Sally – Juno Temple

Director – Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller
Screenplay – Frank Miller
Based on characters created by Frank Miller
Producer – Robert Rodriguez, Aaron Kaufman, Stephen L’Heureux, Sergei Bespalov, Alexander Rodnyansky & Mark C. Manuel
Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use

Based on Frank Miller neo-noir comic series Sin City and following the first film from 2005, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For weaves more of Miller’s stories centering around Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Marv (Mickey Rourke) as they go up against the corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who rules Basin City.

Following the success of the first Sin City in 2005, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (and if you’ve seen Miller’s The Spirit, you should know Rodriguez is more the reason for this film’s success) have been pushing for a sequel to be developed for years, but wound up going through numerous delays. After nine years, we finally get Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

I loved the first Sin City, which was one of those films I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up sucker-punching me in the face with all of its all-star cast and visual glory. However, the sequel could easily fall prey to either lack of novelty with the time span in between it and its predecessor or too much hype. That’s not the case, though. Obviously, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For doesn’t quite have the punch that the first one had, which is expected. Like 300: Rise of an Empire earlier this year, there’s really no visual surprise here. That said, I was still greatly entertained.

Director Robert Rodriguez, who also filmed, edited and scored this movie (read his book Rebel Without a Crew if you ever get a chance), clearly loves B-movies. With his technique and style, no one can elevate a B-movie above being just a standard B-movie better than him (with the exception for his pal and frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino). It’s near impossible to not be amazed at what he was able to accomplish visually with this film and its predecessor. Creating a near-all black and white pulpy film-noir world (which pays homage to Miller’s source so well), with just a dash of bright red blood here and green eyes that light up on fire there, Rodriguez gives the viewer a gorgeous color palette that one could argue is the true star of the film, in spite of the stellar A-list cast – who all appear to be having a blast – on display here.

Most of the cast from the first film, including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and Rosario Dawson, are back for the sequel. Rourke (who owes a good portion of his comeback to Rodriguez) is once again scene-stealing fun as the punched-in faced brawler Marv, who despite his love for a good fight has quite a soft spot for his friend Nancy. Powers Boothe gets more screen time than what he got in the first film, and makes the most of it, chewing the scenery with corrupt delight. To those that have seen the first, they might be wondering why Willis is back, but it makes sense.

Various newcomers fill in nicely here. Following her scene-stealing villainous turn in 300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green vamps it up and channels her inner Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale bombshell Ava Lord, who weaves web traps for her men like a Black Widow spider killing its prey. Green, whose performance here is daring to say the least, has a graceful yet seductive presence that fits perfectly in a noir setting. This woman’s capable of making grown men weep. Josh Brolin and Dennis Haysbert (taking a break from asking you if you’re in good hands) are fine substitutions for Clive Owen and the late Michael Clarke Duncan, respectively. Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd, Jeremy Piven and Christopher Meloni all have effective cameos as well.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and turns in a fine performance as the gambling loner Johnny; however, his character left me wanting more. Certain things revealed about his character aren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been and it’s really the one area of the film I felt took a misstep.

The one area that’s an improvement from the first, though, is Jessica Alba, and I wasn’t expecting to feel that way about the artist formerly known as Sue Storm. That’s not to say her character was a flaw in the first ’cause Nancy served her purpose for that story and Alba was solid in the role. This time around, a tormented Nancy is much more complex and developed as she struggles in dealing with the events that concluded the first film. Alba may certainly be turning lots of boys into men the way she moves on that stripper stage, but her story arc, shared mostly with Rourke and Willis, is one of the most engaging of the film.

Working with Rodriguez seems to be working for her.

There’s not as much bite as we got the first time around, but Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is still an exciting and visually stunning picture thanks to Frank Miller’s wild band of characters and Robert Rodriguez’s unique vision which throws at the viewer all the stylized blood, guts and sexiness an easily R-rated film can deliver. Although the characters are fun and the cast bringing them to life is first-rate, this is definitely a film that’s more about style over substance. If the style works, though, I can’t complain too much.

Rodriguez and Miller already confirmed they’re planning a Sin City 3. Please, don’t take nearly a decade this time.

I give Sin City: A Dame to Kill For an A- (★★★½).

REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…

8/25/14        What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
8/26/14        Benjamin’s Stash
8/28/14        A Most Wanted Man
8/29/14        As Above, So Below
8/29/14        The November Man

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