Rated R for brutal stylized violence, sexual content, nudity and brief drug use
Written by Frank Miller
Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
Starring Micky Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Rosario Dawson and more
Saying you liked the original “Sin City” movie, made all the way back in 2005, can get you in trouble in some movie-going circles. It was horribly violent, melodramatic and misogynistic, though all three things were very true to the source material, and had a distinct comic book-style look that was fascinating and off-putting in equal measure. Some of us were drawn by its sense of film noir taken to its most extreme point, a seedy underbelly of a movie that reveled in its own gritty darkness, but it wasn’t for everyone.
Sadly, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” isn’t for anyone.
Though it looks the same as its predecessor, “A Dame to Kill For” fails to find the balance the original “Sin City” did between comic book-style exaggeration and true drama. Here, the grimaces and thousand-yard stares too often become flat-out ridiculous, the kind of thing that makes you giggle at the overacting instead of sending a chill down your spine. The multiple narratives are scattered, with little to no tie-ins even between the two stories sharing the same villain, and the violence seems more cartoonish and pointless than ever.
It’s sad, because both movies are written by Frank Miller, the man who created the comic books they’re based on, and directed by Miller and the normally reliably interesting Robert Rodriguez. Between the two of them, they executed the nihilistic vision of the comics brilliantly in the first movie.
In the second, however, it seems like they stopped bothering. The timeline is utterly incoherent, with at least one of the plotlines definitely happening after the first “Sin City” but featuring Marv, a character who died in that film. The movie gives a vague sense that all of the story lines are happening in the same night, only to jump randomly in time while giving us only the vaguest of clues that they’d done so. The few attempts to tie things together seem vague and half-hearted.
The one continuing storyline, featuring Jessica Alba’s character, doesn’t spend nearly enough time recapping what happened in the first movie, making occasional references to things that even fans are likely to only half-remember. Alba does a decent job chronicling her character’s fury and self-destruction, but the fact that we’re barely told why she’s spiraling helps no one.
The one plot thread that carries some of the spirit of the original features Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a gambler who picks the wrong game to take on. Gordon-Leavitt hits the noir notes beautifully, and he almost manages to sell the ending even though Miller cheats his story out of any weight.
Those who didn’t like the original “Sin City” will see “A Dame to Kill For” as more of the same, not able to look past the color scheme and animated blood spatter. Those of us who understood what “Sin City” was trying to do, however, will simply be disappointed that Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez didn’t try nearly so hard this time.
Want to know what Dan Metcalf thinks about the movie? Read his review here.