Eva Green plays a seductress and Josh Brolin the seductee in 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.' (Dimension Films)
‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is ultra-stylized, ultra-violent and ultra-repetitive. It covers the same ground Robert Rodriguez’s and Frank Miller’s “Sin City” did in 2005, to diminishing returns.
It’s a pulpy bare-knuckle bruiser with a gorgeous black-and-white look, bringing to life the pages of Miller’s grim graphic novels. But all the tough talk, booze-swilling and shadowy beheadings (in this case, roughly 514 of them) can’t disguise the fact that this rehash lacks the sick fun of the original, instead leaving a bad taste behind, along with a feeling of been-there, done-that.
“A Dame to Kill For” tells several semi-connected stories; drifting through them all is Mickey Rourke’s hulking Marv character. A mass of bulk piled high into a brick wall of a man, his face flattened as though he was walloped by a cartoon anvil, Marv is the sadistic, beat up mascot of Sin City, where it is always dark and forever raining. Marv’s worn, weary mug is the embodiment of Miller’s dour worldview.
In the best of the movie’s three main narratives, Eva Green is Ava Lord, a maneater temptress who seduces Josh Brolin’s tortured Dwight McCarthy to kill her husband for her. Green’s nearly entirely topless performance is a fanboy’s dream and will live forever on download servers everywhere, and her storyline best embodies the soapy noir vibe the film is looking to achieve. It’s also the campiest of the tales, and the levity is welcome: It plays with genre clichés and story tropes with a self-awareness that strikes the right tone, and helps offset some of its unflinching brutality, such as when Marv pulls another character’s eyeball clear out of his head. (Marv’s own reaction to his move is terrific.)
There’s another thread with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a cocky gambler looking to one-up Sin City crime boss Roark (a seething Powers Boothe), and Gordon-Levitt and Boothe’s back-and-forths give the chapter some spark. Gordon-Levitt has a face made for this kind of exercise in neo-glamour, whose distinct visuals pay homage to old Hollywood, but his character comes up on a narrative dead end that leaves him without much to do.
That leads into the film’s closing suite, and “A Dame to Kill For” drags to its finish with the weakest of its three tales. Rodriguez regular Jessica Alba returns as scorned stripper Nancy Callahan, who is plotting revenge on Roark for his role in the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis, back in glimpses after being killed off in the first film). The storyline never rises above its typical vengeance mechanics, and Alba is too dull of an actress to lift it up. As such, the film sputters to a bleak anti-climax, unsurprising given the film’s gloomy intentions, but unsatisfactory nonetheless. The movie winds up folding under the weight of its own heavy tone, itself another victim of the darkness and nihilism of Sin City.