When it was released in 2005, Sin City was a revelation. It was visually and stylistically like nothing we’d seen in a film. It was basically a comic book, in movie form, and for that it was an incredible experience to watch, particularly on the big screen. It followed multiple plots, all intertwining over a period of time, in Basin City, and each was pulpy, but each was engrossing in a different way. So in reviewing Sin City 2, I wanted to look at it from the angles that made the first so great, which were visual style, great characters, great noir plotting and overall pulpy fun.
The first aspect of the film that obviously stands out is visual style. The trouble for A Dame to Kill For is that, what was a unique, bold and eye catching style in 2005, is now just the norm. Well, not the norm, but it’s been done. So immediately, the film lacks that punch of disruption. That’s not to say it doesn’t look good. It looks great in 3D, and there are certainly enhancements. It just doesn’t hit you as hard, which is unavoidable really. One thing that is very noticeable in 3D is Eva Green. I’ll leave that alone though.
Unfortunately, this trend of comparing A Dame to Kill For, to the original, without great results will continue as this review goes on a little bit. In terms of the characters, most of them are returning characters. This is fine, as in the first one, a large number of the characters were fun, from the very hate-able bad guys to the broken down, tough nosed antiheroes. But somehow it just didn’t work. The characters felt underdeveloped, like pawns to present this story but without any real ‘character.’ Hartigan (Bruce Willis) was a great character in Sin City, and he’s presented as a ghost here, with very little screen time. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is just there to beat people up. Josh Brolin’s Dwight was decent, but not spectacular, and the addition of Joseph Gordon Levitt was ok but honestly didn’t add much, and made me wonder if they just wanted to get him into the film somehow.
I will say, the strengths in terms of characters came mainly in the bad guy department. Powers Boothe was fantastic again as the crooked Rourke. He is a real bad guy, in the purest sense. You just flat out hate the guy, as you did in the first film. However, the film is called A Dame To Kill For for a reason, and that reason is Eva Green. She’s been doing great stuff lately, and this is no different. She is just amazing as the villainous Ava Lord. She pretty much lights the black and white screen on fire, and gives us an example of what real pulpy fiction should look like. She’s entertaining, has the only real character complexity, and just so happens to be incredibly hot. Not to mention the fact that she rarely has her clothes on. Part of me wants to say that it was almost a bit over the top how much time she spent naked, but then there’s a bigger part that doesn’t want to say that, so I won’t.
Frank Miller’s graphic novels are always great reads. Brilliantly plotted, with interweaving characters and story arcs. So how is A Dame To Kill For in this department. Well, unfortunately, not that great. There are three main plots on show. There is the title story about Dwight and his battle with former lover Ava Lord. This plot line is also the most enjoyable, largely because Brolin and Green are pretty great to watch, and it has a nice mix of action, mystery and romance. But then there is the plot between Nancy and Roark, which I thought I’d care about, but unfortunately felt rushed and just didn’t really provide a great deal at all. Plus there is a random story involving Roark and a young card player (Gordon-Levitt) which is kind of entertaining, but that ultimately didn’t resonate at all with me. It seemed like filler. Maybe to make us hate Roark more, but that wasn’t needed.
Now, in general, there were a lot of negatives here, but all in all, when I went in I expected to see some good pulp cinema, that looks and feels a lot like the first Sin City film. While the plot wasn’t as strong, and the characters weren’t as well put together, it still has that great vibe, visual style and a lot of guilty pleasure entertainment. As you would expect, it doesn’t skimp on violence or sexuality, and there are some really good one liners and moments of comedy. It wasn’t all bad by all means.
All in all, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For was a strange experience, because while I easily recognized that it wasn’t a great movie, and was not nearly as good as the original, I still left the cinema satisfied and entertained. A lot of this can be attributed to Eva Green and Powers Boothe, and the fact that the large time between the two films had me ready for another, no matter how good or bad. So while it’s not the amazing world beating sequel we may have hoped for, it’s still a fun night out at the movies for graphic novel fans. Plus, if you’re a fan of Eva Green…well, oh boy.