PLOT: Another trip back to the alleyways, saloons, secret rooms and highways of Basin City, where various stories of violence, degradation, lust and greed play out: A young gambler takes on the city's corrupt Senator; a down on his luck PI gets tangled up with a seductive former lover; vengeful dancer Nancy Callahan aims to take out the man responsible for ruining her life.
REVIEW: There are a whole lot of A-list names that pop up during the opening credits of SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR, but the real stars of the sequel are (in no particular order): Eva Green's bare breasts, Jessica Alba's gyrating torso, Rosario Dawson's cleavage, Mickey Rourke's ugly mug, Powers Boothe's evil smirk, Dennis Haysbert's eyeball and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's mangled hand. There are a few other supporting players as well, but you get the idea: SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR is a movie of striking images, and not much beyond that. Not unlike the first film, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have adapted the latter's graphic novels and crafted a monochromatic, surreal world that is part cartoon, part film noir and all surface-level guilty pleasure. There's nothing especially memorable about the stories or even the actors who walk this landscape, it's all about the vivid pictures the duo create.
The first film was something of a visual stunner, so interesting and strange that you could look past its flaws. The problem with A DAME TO KILL FOR, if it is indeed a problem, is that it is definitely more of the same, the novelty is gone. Even though it has been almost ten years since SIN CITY was released, the sequel feels like it might as well have come out the following year; there's nothing different or inventive enough about it that screams "worth the wait!" (Save for the fact it's in 3D, and looks good in the format, at that.) A handful of the actors from the first return, an impressive new batch of recognizable names are brought in, but Miller and Rodriguez mostly stick to their guns as far as everything else goes. This will of course please the many hardcore fans of the graphic novels and first film, but for the rest of us hoping for a little something extra won't get it.
But Rodriguez and Miller know they don't need to bring anything incredibly fresh to the table as long as they're tickling our more perverse sides with twisted tales of lust and bloody vengeance, not to mention an unending parade of scantily clad women (and even a dude in the nude at one point). The two are actually very well suited for one another, as Miller's writing style has that pulpy self-awareness that characterizes almost all of Rodriguez's work. Similarly, Rodriguez has never met a woman he didn't want his camera to drool over, and Miller writes women in only two shades: sexy and vulnerable, or sexy and wicked. Together they give us an experience that is mean and misogynistic, but just artificial enough not to be taken at all seriously. It's admirable that the movie "is what it is," but it's also not exactly satisfying, for SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR never feels like anything other than a visual stimulant. It's a movie meant to be played in the background or in a bar.
Miller's stories are exaggerated takes on the hardboiled crime novels of the 40s and 50s, as well as the shadow-strewn film noirs of the same time period, and though some of the elements are clearly over-the-top (the physical prowess of many of his protagonists, for example), the basics are the genre are fully adhered to: A not-too-bright loner (Josh Brolin, taking over the "Dwight" role from Clive Owen) finds himself up to his neck in trouble when an old flame (Eva Green) asks for his help but clearly has a more nefarious agenda that includes framing him for murder. A young hustler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) strolls into town looking to clean out Sin City's most powerful man, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), but finds there's a price to pay for his arrogance. A damaged young woman (Jessica Alba), haunted by the death of her protector (Bruce Willis, who appears as a phantom voice of reason), vows revenge against the evil bastard who ruined both their lives (Boothe again). Popping up throughout each tale is Sin City's signature character, Marv (Mickey Rourke), a massive hulk who, despite his brutish ways and gnarled appearance, has a steadfast sense of honor that makes him one of the town's more unlikely beacons of virtue.
The highlight of the film, for several reasons, is Eva Green, whom we can all agree was born to play a man-eater. As a woman who can twist and mold any dumb lug into exactly what she wants, Green purrs and growls and completely owns the screen, her bodacious body often completely nude and the actress seemingly loving every lurid moment of it. The rest of the cast is perfectly fine in the film, each making the most of Miller's frequently corny dialogue, but Green is so seductive and alluring that she makes dumb lugs of us all.
What A DAME TO KILL FOR ultimately amounts to is a cheap thrill. (Maybe not so cheap if you're shelling out $18 to see it in 3D.) It offers a few scintillating sights, a bevy of buxom broads, and has a heart colder than ice. If you don't mind that, then take the trip down there. Just don't be surprised if you leave feeling bruised and used.