Sin City meets expectations but fails to excel

Photo Courtesy of Troublemaker Studios

A word of advice to everyone in Sin City: if you’re being threatened at gunpoint, don’t worry about dying. In all likelihood, you’ll probably be able to take at least five bullets before even feeling anything. Or on second thoughts, maybe that’s just in the case of Mickey Rourke.

The first “Sin City” was released in 2005 to universal acclaim and praise from both audiences and critics. Despite the fact that it was a celebration of gore, guts and sex, the film was a visual marvel. Watching the movie felt like watching a graphic novel come to life, and the added revitalization of film noir made it even more special.

The actors delivered performances that were both over-the-top and emotionally impacting, making their characters the definition of memorable.

Nine years later, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”, is the second Frank Miller sequel this year that no one saw coming. Many felt this sudden sequel felt out of place and thought it would not come even close to its predecessor. While it certainly did not surpass the first, it did at least come close.

The visuals of “A Dame to Kill For” are stunning. Once again the roots of the movie are visible in the best possible way. Every scene in the film feels like a graphic novel that has come to life.

It looks unlike any movie out in this past decade, and for that reason alone it stays in your mind long after you have exited the theater.

The fresh faces in “A Dame to Kill For” feel perfectly at home in this world and they deliver powerful performances. Unfortunately, most of the film is spent with returning actors from the first “Sin City”.

Dwight is a free-spirited nobody who spends his nights drinking, brawling and helping his friends for absolutely no reason. He lives in the moment with everything he does and will risk his life for someone simply because they spoke to him. Fans of the first film will love his return and newcomers will have no problem getting on board with this murderous yet somehow lovable character.

The main three stories however follow Nancy, Dwight and Johnny. Johnny is a newcomer to “Sin City”, played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. He is a gambler with a disposition towards winning big, and his ego collides with that of another powerful figure.

Nancy (played by Jessica Alba) returns from the first movie, now severely damaged by its events. She is seeking revenge against Senator Roark (played by Powers Booth) while confronting the ghosts of her past.

Josh Brolin now plays Dwight, who was previously played by Clive Owen. Dwight’s life is turned upside down when he meets Ava Lord, the titular “dame to kill for”, played by Eva Green.

Once again, the new actors bring their best to the film. Josh Brolin feels a lot more damaged and believable as Dwight than Clive Owen did, and his narration is a lot better as well. Joseph Gordon Levitt brings his characteristic charisma as Johnny, which fits the character like a well-tailored suit.

That said, when the story needs him to be serious, he is just as capable. The show-stopper however is Eva Green. Her character is a symbol of female sexuality and the iron grip it holds over vulnerable men.

It would be easy to write the performance off as eye-candy but it is far more than that. Eva Green becomes evil in feminine form, and it is unlike anything audiences have seen before.

However, all these positives aside, this new installation does not match the first one in its impact. The style may still all be there, but it has lost some of its substance. The stories are simply not as interesting this time as they were in the first “Sin City”. They are not boring, but the Dwight story may feel too long for some, and therefore less engaging.

The Nancy story feels shoehorned-in as a callback and it ends horribly. In hindsight, the story does not truly end. Those who saw the first movie would probably see the Nancy story as disappointing and those who did not might find it difficult to understand her plight.

Another issue some might have is the excessive narration. Sometimes the lines that are spoken over the drama are quotable to no end and really impacting. However both the “Sin City” movies tend to not allow the visuals to speak for themselves often, which is a shame given that the visuals are the selling points.

Overall, viewers seem happy with “A Dame to Kill For”. Those who did not like the first film definitely will not like this one, and those who have not seen the first film might be a little confused during some story-lines. Anyone looking for a fun blood-soaked two hours that is as hilarious as it is emotional with a truly impressive visual palette, “A Dame to Kill For” is definitely a movie worth watching.

Our Take: 3/5