After an almost decade-long gap since Sin City (2005), you’d think that collaborators Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez would have made time to craft a watertight narrative and ensure that expectations were not only met but exceeded in belated sequel, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014). Sadly, that isn’t the case. Once again pulling from those tropes of classic Noir and imbuing them with a graphic, hyper-violent gleam the follow-up also sticks to the same circular story structure as the previous film, but it simply isn’t compelling enough this time around, nor does it feature that same colourful collection of frazzled lowlifes and crazed antagonists.
Once again we pick up on the lives of a group of troubled individuals who exist in the bowels of Basin City. Newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt is drifter Johnny, a gambler dangerously dicing with his fate, while stripper Nancy (a returning Jessica Alba) is driven by a personal vendetta following the death of her protector. Also back is Dwight (Josh Brolin, taking over from Clive Owen) a brooding loner who finds himself deeply unlucky when it comes to love. While some of the scene transitions are astounding in their visual inventiveness (and Rodriguez certainly hasn’t lost his knack for shooting action), the tales themselves are largely weak and unimaginative. So bereft of anything in the way of development or plot, it’s a leap to even label Levitt’s two-parter a ‘story’.
To recompense for those shortcomings, Miller and Rodriguez bring back Mickey Rourke’s lumbering psychopath Marv. He flits in and out of each yarn but is rarely given the opportunity to shine and his inclusion ends up adding to the deeply confusing timeline between both films. Some of the stories here take place prior to events in the first film, yet Marv (who famously met a grisly end in the original via electric chair) appears in scenes which seemingly happen after his demise. In Dwight’s tale, evil henchman Manute (Dennis Haysbert stepping into the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s shoes) ends of buying it in a stream of bullets, yet he’s alive and well during the hero’s later exploits in the first film.
Bruce Willis returns posthumously as a tortured apparition, adding zero to the film; Eva Green’s ridiculously signposted femme fatale appears to be allergic to clothing; and a mini subplot within Dwight’s thread involving two detectives feels maddeningly superfluous. It’s a very laboured and box-ticking enterprise, and the only actors who truly register are Powers Boothe, playing the corrupt Senator Roark with gleeful malevolence, and the ever dependable Brolin (once again bringing his skills to material which is clearly beneath him). Considering the leaps and bounds made in the comic book adaptation since the first film, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For fails to break new ground and ends up resembling an impressively shot extended effects showreel rather than a satisfying, fully-formed feature.
Adam Lowes | @adlow76