Published Aug 22, 2014It's funny how even the most exciting and exotic of locales can begin to feel mundane once you've spent enough time there. When Robert Rodriguez helped Frank Miller adapt his graphic novel Sin City in 2005 for the big screen, the result was a hyper-stylized comic book come to life, fully realizing a seedy world wherein violence lurked around every corner and the pitch-black humour matched the film noir shades. Their follow-up, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For maintains the same aesthetic and spirit of the original but fails to hit the same dizzying heights.
It all starts with the stories, which are still suitably dark without being quite as twisted or inspired as those featuring Elijah Wood's cannibal or Nick Stahl's Yellow Bastard from the first film. The tone is set early on, when the hulking Marv (Mickey Rourke) regains consciousness at the scene of an accident and puts together enough of the pieces to hunt down a group of young hoodlums who were unlucky enough to cross paths with him earlier that night.
In another vignette, the cocky gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes head-to-head with Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a high-stakes poker game and wins enough to incur the corrupt politician's wrath. Exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) also has her sights set on taking down Roark, helped along by visions of her old deceased protector John Hartigan (Bruce Willis).
In the film's longest tale, Dwight (Josh Brolin, filling in nicely for Clive Owen) reunites with former flame Ava (Eva Green) and, blinded by lust, agrees to kill her wealthy husband. But the cunning femme fatale, who seems to rarely find much use for clothes, has more devious plans and is soon also seducing the cop (Christopher Meloni) in charge of the murder investigation.
The look of the film is once again impeccably sleek, popping out in 3-D to further immerse the viewer in the dingy and dank destination where day doesn't seem to exist. The first-rate cast helps to elevate the pulpy material, especially Rourke in a role that seems tailor-made for his brute sensibilities and Green with her ability to make sex appeal seem downright sinister.
But something just isn't quite as fulfilling this time around. Perhaps it's because the characters' quests for revenge start to blend together in a way that makes them all seem a little hollow and predictable. Or maybe that the green screen wizardry used by Rodriguez and Miller to craft compositions dominated by shadows and the occasional burst of colour has simply lost some of its novelty.
Whatever it is, Sin City still provides enough of an escapist jolt to warrant a visit; it's just not a place where you'd want to live.