When director Robert Rodriguez got a hold of Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Sin City,” he turned it into a movie that was visually unlike anything we’d ever seen. It was a comic book come to life in stark black and white set off by occasional pops of color.
The plot was neo-noir and trashy; packed to the gills with sex and violence. “Sin City” appealed to our basest desires while somehow managing to be hauntingly beautiful at the same time.
Nine years have passed and a sequel has finally arrived in the form of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” The movie still packs quite a punch, but this time we aren’t able to say that we’ve never seen anything like it before.
Again packaged as an anthology where various characters pop in and out of each other’s stories “A Dame to Kill For” is still something to behold.
Some old favorites are back, like Mickey Rourke and his prosthetic nose teaming up as the hulking, good-humored, primal-justice-dispensing Marv. There are also some new faces like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an expertly cocky gambler named Johnny, and Josh Brolin as the tough-as-nails Dwight.
Brolin, by far, gets the strongest story as a bad man trying to make good who also happens to be in love with the wrong woman, the sultry, seductive Ava (played by Eva Green, who gamely spends about 85% of her screen time in the nude).
Visually, “A Dame to Kill For” is nearly every bit as vibrant as its predecessor, but where it falls short is in its secondary stories, which are glaringly lacking.
Gordon-Levitt is a great actor and he fits right into this overly-stylized world, but what he’s given to play with is hardly any story at all. It’s barely even a concept. Gordon-Levitt’s charisma is the only thing keeping the movie afloat during these stretches.
Where things really falter, though, is in the third act where Rodriguez and Miller hand the movie over to the incredibly bland and uninteresting Jessica Alba, whose shortcomings in talent are all the more apparent compared to the heavyweight cast around her.
Alba appeared in the first “Sin City” as the angelic damsel in distress Nancy, a stripper who manages to never take off any clothes. She didn’t have to do much as she was merely a pretty face to be protected.
Scarred by the events from the first movie, Nancy is haunted by a spectral Bruce Willis as she plots vengeance against super-evil Senator Roark, played with scenery-chewing gusto by Powers Boothe.
Watching Alba play “tormented” is painful and not even an assist from Rourke can keep the movie from ending on a flat note.
“A Dame to Kill For” doesn’t really have anything new to add to “Sin City” and in a lot of ways feels like a really, really long deleted scene you might watch as a DVD extra from a favorite film. It’s always fun to get more of something you love, but at the same time, you can understand why you didn’t see any of this the first time around.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.