Robert Rodriguez turned visual effects inside out and blackened it out with the truly spectacular, eye stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel; “Sin City.” Now an astonishingly 7 long years later, a sequel arrives in a new film with multiple stories and characters bringing us back to the gritty gore soaked streets of Sin City in “A dame to kill for.” It’s been a long time since this film was first announce to arrive and since then, several actors in the first film have either declined to return (Clive Owen and Michael Madson: Dwight and Bob respectively) or passed away (Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy: Manute and Shellie respectively). Has all this turmoil affected the film’s quality as well as the release? We’ll see.
The story takes place not too long after the first film (at least most of the stories do), where Nancy (Jessica Alba) is plotting revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for causing the death of her beloved hero Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Marv (Mickey Rourke) joins forces with a love scorn Dwight (Josh Brolin) to stop a crazed man eater (Eva Green) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) challenges the senator in a live or die card game for glory. For the most part, the film logically follows the events of the first film and shows us how our previous “heroes” have fared since the last film’s events. However, due to the lengthy gap between films and replacing certain members; it becomes difficult to follow certain events in the film’s jumbled trilogy.
New comers like Eva Green, Ray Liotta and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bust their caps and bullets off creating new characters and they end up fitting into this dark world perfectly. The effort is there, the passion and silvery flare is all there and it keeps eyes and attention gloriously glued to the characters. Jessica Alba shines far beyond her stripper role and creates an even more dark and compelling personality that proves she is capable of deeper and darker material. Her entire segment in this film (like the first one) was the best tale out of the bunch and definitely made watching this film worthwhile. The gore and violence is indeed intense but oddly enough, the level of the gore has been toned down since the first film’s splatter spread.
Or perhaps the gruesomeness has been saturated in our systems long enough that it just doesn’t seem as barbarically bloody as it once did. I think that’s the biggest flaw with “A Dame to kill for”: we’ve kind of seen this before. When “Sin City” first came out; it was new and daring and completely different than anything we had seen before. Rodriguez created a whole new visual style of cinematic magic and reinvented certain actors in brand new forms that the audience never expected to see. But with “A dame to kill for”, nothing really feels as awe inspiring as it did the first time. The film feels confident relying on its original trick to be blinding enough that you won’t want to see any new tricks; despite the fact the film has had 7 long years to craft a new cinematic arsenal.
This is a sequel that should have been held at higher standards considering the time it took to make it and the obviously large shadow the first film left that still holds power by today’s standards. However, in reality this film just falls under “meh…it was okay”; the effort just feels half assed and lacks any bite or ballsiness the first film so brazenly embraced. “A dame to kill for” continues the stories from before but does NOT reenergize them; it’s like riding a bike you haven’t used in 10 years and still expect it to be in tip top shape without applying any maintenance whatsoever. There’s still a lot of visual fantastical content, great performances and oodles of bloody body chopping to enjoy…it’s just not quite the same as it was the first time around. “A dame to kill for” still entertains but I can’t help wondering what it could have REALLY done if Rodriguez had put just a bit more bang for our bucks.