MOVIE REVIEW: SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: FRANK MILLER, ROBERT RODRIGUEZ / SCREENPLAY: FRANK MILLER / STARRING: MICKEY ROURKE, JESSICA ALBA, JOSH BROLIN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
For all of five minutes, Sin City 2 is one of the best 3D movies you'll ever see. As Mickey Rourke's Marv comes to in Basin City, regaining what passes for consciousness in his distinctly shaped head, we're treated to what must be some of the best imagery to ever grace a comic book movie. Marv busts heads, it starts to snow, and the audience breathes a collective sigh of relief – the lengthy gap between films has done A Dame to Kill For no harm at all. And then, as the title credits stop, so does the 3D. Like one of the film's omnipresent Cadillacs descending the long, winding road into Basin City, it's downhill from there.
A lot has changed since the release of Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City in 2005. Comic book movies have gotten much better since then, with the completion of Nolan's Bat-trilogy, the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the growing popularity of anything based on a graphic novel. That's not to mention Frank Miller's swift decline from favour, the dilution of the film's style with a host of imitators, and the fact that Rodriguez hasn't made a good movie since Planet Terror. The odds, then, were not in this sequel's favour.
As before, the movie juggles multiple characters, stories and time frames with relative ease. We follow Nancy (Alba) struggling in the wake of Hartigan's death, Dwight (Brolin) trying to control his own anger, pre-face op (no Clive Owen, then) and newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hotshot gambler who gets in too deep when he beats crooked Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at poker. Marv is there too, popping up in each story simply because he was the first film's breakout character and that's what the filmmakers think the audience want. A number of other familiar faces new and old also crop up, to varying effect. Dennis Haysbert is a poor substitute for the late, great Michael Clarke Duncan, while Brolin is surprisingly bad. Dwight is presented as a completely different character here to how he was portrayed in the first film. And then they cover him in prosthetics to look like Clive Owen (just hire Clive Owen! He's not busy these days) and Dwight's story is buried under the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Christopher Lloyd and Ray Liotta fare better, however, and there's also Lady Gaga, for some reason.
On paper, there's no reason fans of the original shouldn't enjoy this entry. It looks identical – if not better – with the same use of music, colour, pace and tone, faithfully adapting the comic book story of the same name. The action is slick, the violence brutal and effective. In Boothe, it has a legitimately horrible villain, almost making up for the lack of Elijah Wood and That Yellow Bastard, transcending his paper-thin role to extend Roark's malevolence over the whole film. It is, at times, exactly as fun as it should be. Yet something, you feel, is missing (the 3D, perhaps, which is barely there beyond the title credits). The stories are smothered by the insistence on comic book style, the dialogue and characterisation sorely lacking, particularly where the womenfolk are concerned. As the titular dame, Eva Green is every bit as bad as Brolin. The camera leers at her, Nancy and the other female characters, while poor Rosario Dawson looks utterly ridiculous dressed in leather and a gimp mask. Oh, and the hooker dressed as Zorro is back too.
Sin City 2 is proof that you can be too literal in adapting a visual medium like comics to the cinema. Perhaps we're numbed to it, thanks to a slew of imitators, or perhaps standards have simply changed since 2005. Or maybe the film simply isn't very good. Whatever the case may be, this sequel is a sad, outdated disappointment.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10