Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review: Stylized Urban Chaos Round 2!

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Nine years ago, a little comic book adaptation known as Sin City opened with a moody, romantic scene that bled noir with its striking visuals and hard-boiled dialogue. A man comforts a beautiful woman on a lonely rooftop before quietly shooting her with a silencer.

The difference between that film and the sequel, subtitled A Dame to Kill For, is apparent just by how the follow-up opens. Marv (returner Mickey Rourke is still a scene-stealer) wakes up on the road with two cars on top of each other and a few dead frat boys behind him. We find out how he killed them and then watch him kill two more with the help of some unseen friends with bows and arrows. It’s chaotic and messy, but still a ton of fun.

There’s nothing all that intriguing about this sequel. After nine years, you would hope the script gave us a few seconds to catch our breath here and there. But we hit the ground running and don’t stop until the last gunshot before the credits roll.

Like its predecessor, there are three main stories that span the film.

The first is “The Long Bad Night”, which co-director and creator of the source material Frank Miller wrote special for the movie. We follow Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt fitting right in by harkening back to his Brick days), a cocky gambler naive enough to challenge Senator Roark (a snarlingly excellent Powers Boothe). This story is the calmest of the three, making it unfortunate that it awkwardly gets split up around the next story.

The titular “A Dame to Kill For” follows, which is the best of the three, and also the only full length story being adapted from the original graphic novels. Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen as a pre-facial reconstruction surgery Dwight McCarthy. But Brolin does a lot more growling, where Owen balanced out the original with a eery calm nature that is much missed here. Eva Green is the real reason to pay attention, playing Ava Lord, a welcome femme fatale that Green’s sultry mannerisms were made for. She has a way of slowing scenes down, something this film desperately needed, and forcing you to stare at her.

Finally, we close with another brand-new tale, “Nancy’s Last Dance.” Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is back and out for revenge after the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) at the end of the last film. Watching her team up with Marv to take down Senator Roark is a ton of fun, but so much more straight-forward than any other story in both movies. There is a lot of great action though.

That’s what Sin City: A Dame to Kill For really boils down to: great visuals and action paved over some interesting characters, both old and new, and vignettes that feel like they’re in a hurry to get to the next vignette. This film is not nearly the mess that 300: Rise of an Empire was, but it’s definitely a bit unremarkable. Had things been slowed down a bit, just so we could take in the world and mentally play in it, this could have been just as strong as the original. Instead, it feels rushed and chaotic. There’s enough to enjoy if you love the visual style, but it’s missing the spark that made Sin City feel so special in the first place. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

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