Sometimes a sequel will rise to the occasion and build upon and improve upon its predecessor. Sometimes it doesn’t. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” doesn’t.
It’s been nearly 10 years since directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller brought Miller’s series of crime comics to gritty and visually stunning life. “Sin City” was an amazing work of film. The sequel is more of the same but the stories aren’t as compelling and neither are the characters. It looks as sharp as ever but the end result is a bit flat.
Like before, the movie revolves around three stories — one from Miller’s original comic series and two new ones written specifically for the film. Most of the characters appeared in the first film, a few of them even died in it, but since the stories aren’t told in chronological order it all probably works out if you take the time to figure it out.
“The Long Bad Night” features a new character, Johnny ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who has come to Sin City to win some money. Johnny has a gift for gambling but his luck may run out when he joins a poker game led by the film’s main villain — Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe).
Midway through Johnny’s tale the action switches to the title track — “A Dame to Kill For.” Dwight McCarthy (previously played by Clive Owen, now played by Josh Brolin) still spends his nights in Katie’s bar while struggling with his inner rage.
He’s approached by an old flame — Ava Lord (Eva Green) — who wants to escape her abusive husband and his bodyguard Manute (previously played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan, now played by Dennis Haysbert). Will Dwight kill for Ava, and does Ava have ulterior motives?
The final chapter, “Nancy’s Last Dance,” is a continuation of the central story from the first film. Stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) goes from grief to insanity over the death of her beloved John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). As ghost Hartigan helplessly watches from the background, Nancy and her buddy Marv (Mickey Rourke) set about to get revenge on Senator Roarke.
If you enjoyed the original “Sin City” you’ll probably enjoy this one — just not as much. While the visuals are still striking the characters feel tired and the situations they’re put in aren’t as interesting this time around. There’s nothing shocking about Ava Lord’s story aside from the amount of screen time Green is willing to appear naked. Gordon-Levitt brings some new energy to the proceedings with his fun character.
Rourke is always entertaining as the hard-drinking, indestructible Marv. But while in the first film he’s caught up in an interesting story, here he’s mostly just muscle for Dwight and Nancy. At least he’s better off than Willis, who spends his brief time standing in the shadows moaning over Nancy’s sad situation.
Perhaps the movie’s biggest sin is how the final story diminishes the ending of the original. Hardigan selflessly committed suicide to protect Nancy from Roarke. That touching ending is rendered moot by having Nancy go on to become a crazed vigilante.