Anything goes in Basin City. There are no rules or real sense of law. Hell, even the sense of time is strangely off. As we learned from Sin City, not everything is as black and white as it appears. What we learn from Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is much less substantial, and even less fun.
Like its predecessor, A Dame To Kill For has several stories interwoven into it. They are not happening concurrently, so you are left to piece together some sort of chronology based on what happened in the first film. The main story line, with Dwight (Josh Brolin), Ava Lord (Eva Green), Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the girls of Old Town, is a prequel to most of the events in the first Sin City. I won't dive into specifics because there are very few surprises to be had and there is no way I'm going to deprive you of them, but the most recognizable feature that will make you realize this is that Manute (Dennis Haysbert) has two eyes, and one of them isn't gold... yet. In this story arc, Dwight's old flame Ava comes to him for help against her abusive/controlling husband. This of course sets off a chain reaction of carnage, disfigurement and dismemberment.
Next, we meet Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a roving gambler who is too lucky for his own good. He decides to play a high stakes game against the notorious Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), but there is a lot more than money at stake. You also get the sneaking suspicion that Johnny isn't in it for the money.
The final story arc involves Nancy (Jessica Alba) living with the survivor's guilt after Hartigan (Bruce Willis) gave his life for her. Mainly he killed himself so that Senator Roark wouldn't come after Nancy after they killed Roark's son, the Yellow Bastard. Wanting to get revenge over the loss of her love Hartigan, she drinks to try and build up the courage to get her revenge against the Senator. Even if she eventually develops the nerve to go after him, she'll need as much help as she can get. Or maybe just the help of one man. Maybe our favorite lovable ruffian, Marv (Mickey Rourke), will lend a hand. Or two. In case you were wondering, Marv is part of every story, even if only briefly.
Just by description, it sounds like the Sin City we instantly fell in love (maybe lust) with almost 10 years ago. So why was this one much less exhilarating and risque than the first one? Mainly due to the fact that our second visit to Sin City is much less charming than the first. We're not so easily impressed. The best way I can describe the feeling is using my experience with Disney World. I went there as a child (around 8 or 9) and thought it was the most amazing place I had ever been. The rides were thrilling, the decor and style was unlike anything I had seen anywhere else, and the entire experience filled me with an indescribable, joyous feeling I had yet to feel in my 8 or 9 years of existence. I would later return to this same place, only 8 years older with my much younger brother. My brother went through the emotions I did when I first went there, but all I could do was notice how dirty and outdated everything looked, how handsy some of those costumes mascots were, and how incredibly hot it was. My mom then reminded me that nothing had changed since the last time we were there.
Yes, the stylistic hybridization between the graphic novel and film noir is still cool to look at, but it's nothing but pretty visuals without an engaging story to accentuate it. Each story is full of sex, gore and violence, which is fun to a point. With so many crimes going on, the most criminal thing A Dame To Kill For is guilty is being boring. The stories don't carry the same cohesiveness they once had. The sense of adventure, excitement and punchy dialogue doesn't raise our heart rate like before. The plot has lost the edge and sense of danger that gripped us.
Not everything is dull though. Most notably the on-point performance by the talented Eva Green. Her fierce performance and sizzling use of sexuality make this film worth watching. She alone embodied the spirit of the first Sin City, but her tantalizing performance was only a nice distraction that you wish lasted the entire film. The next best distraction would of course have to be Mickey Rourke's character Marv as the comic relief. He is the only consistency between the films, except in A Dame To Kill For he is extremely underutilized in most of the stories.
Even though my second trip to Sin City was more than disappointing, there were some (very few) sights worth checking out. A Dame To Kill For will leave you feeling a dead-like disenchantment while you mourn what you thought would be a promising film.
RATING: ★★★★(4/10 stars)