Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an example of decent disposable entertainment. The movie proves that forgettable popcorn fun doesn’t have to sacrifice effort. This long awaited sequel doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the first movie but its visually stunning, has a great cast and kept me entertained while I was watching it.
A Dame to Kill For has the same narrative structure as the first movie. We get to watch three barely connected stories play out in the corrupt, filthy Basin City. The first storyline takes place after the events of the first film as we see Nancy (Jessica Alba) failing to keep together after the suicide of detective Haritgan (Bruce Willis). She decides to seek vengeance against the corrupt Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe) who drove Haritgan to kill himself. The second storyline follows a gambler named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the hell that follows after he goes up against Senator Roarke in a game of poker. The third segment taking place before the first film features a private detective (Josh Brolin) who finds himself going up against Ava Lord (Eva Green), a very seductive monster who has no problem destroying people to get what she wants.
The biggest problem with the movie is that this time around they are embracing the gimmicks of its concept. With the last movie, the style and the noir homage was played against ambitious stories with a unique screenplay. Sin City 2 has the same type of writing and visuals without a lot of the originality and heart that made the first one so memorable. This time they take the beats and use them for simple action thriller purposes. It’s not that this is poorly written, it’s just that the characters are clichéd and the stories are predictable in the way that it is something you would expect to see in a cheap, low budget B movie of the 40’s and 50’s. The dialogue sounds pretty but lacks it a general passion that makes it come off as witty. The movie isn’t taking itself as serious this time around and if you want something that is just as epic you will be pretty disappointed but if you understand that this is a more laid back and pulpy take on the world they created, there are a couple of reasons why you may still enjoy it if you go along with the ride.
The visuals are just as brilliant and unfiltered as they were before. Sin City’s greatest asset is how well the world they create mixes explosive, modern effects with a grimy, 40’s, black and white charm. There are so many stunning shots thanks to director and cinematographer Robert Rodriguez. You could say that the pure, gigantic ambition of the dreamlike setting mixed with breath taking moments of action and energy is what keeps this movie feeling so alive. You can watch this movie and you can see the sheer passion that went into the look of every scene. This movie does have one thing that that is an improvement and that is Rodriguez’s choice to make the movie in 3D. Usually this can come off as an overused and sloppy gimmick but in this case the breathtaking effects fit with the extra layers of 3D like a glove. The movie is already incredible to watch but with this the originality and the undeniable effort leaps off the screen. If one of your problems with 3D is that it makes the screen look dark, have no fear, a lot of this movie is already in black and white already. This very much reminds me of the 3D for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. You’re taking an artist who has always been highly stylized and your letting their visions jump out at you.
The energy and excitement of the cinematography is enough for me to give this a decent enough rating, but I also found myself really enjoying the performances. Mickey Rourke cherishes every moment he is on screen with his role as Marv, the violent criminal with a heart of gold. Josh Brolin is solid if not exactly doing something that places his character beyond other stock, brooding anti-heroes of recent memory. Eva Green also looks like she’s enjoying herself chewing humongous amounts of scenery while playing the villain part. Joseph Gordon-Levitt definitely gives the most emotional performance out of the cast and the calmness and subtle depth that he brings to Johnny makes it far and away the best segment of the three. I even thought Jessica Alba did ok with the part she was given even if she is a weaker actress. One of the great things that surprised me is that no one in the cast (even Bruce Willis in a small role) seems like they’re doing this as a paycheck, people in the movie are either giving decent performances or having a lot of fun camping up there ridiculous characters. Because of that, the storylines and characters feel less generic and more or less play to the idea of how delightfully entertaining the movie is supposed to be.
The movie fails to deliver on a product that is as powerful as the one that came before it. That being said, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For remains an endlessly stunning film to look at (especially in 3D) and the actors and the writers do a good job making the style and structure pulpier without it feeling lazy. Sin City 2 isn’t something I’m going to remember but it is something I had a shockingly big amount of fun with which is why it is a disappointment to see it failing so miserably at the box office.
Release Date: 4/4/2014
Cast: Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson and Josh Brolin
Directed by: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Frank Miller
Based on the graphic novel by: Frank Miller