After a long nine year wait, with many false starts and delays, the sequel to 2005's Sin City, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, finally arrives in theaters today and it's, well, both good and disappointing.
A Long Wait Between Films
In 2005, after Sin City was released, Rodriguez announced plans for a follow-up film that would feature many of the same characters. He planned for the film to be based on A Dame to Kill For. Miller said the film would be a prequel and a sequel with interlinking stories both before and after the first film. Miller, who was writing the screenplay in 2006, had anticipated for production to begin later in the year. However, Rodriguez had also said that official casting would not start until the script was finalized and in the studio's hands. At the 2007 Comic-Con, Frank Miller confirmed that he and Robert Rodriguez had completed a script, but blamed the Weinstein brothers for the delay.
During the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con, Rodriguez stated that the script for Sin City 2 was nearing completion and that it was his hope that shooting could begin before the end of the year. Rodriguez said that Sin City 2 would comprise A Dame to Kill For, "Just Another Saturday Night" and two original stories Sin City creator Miller has written for the film, one new story reportedly titled "The Long Bad Night". In August 2011, Rodriguez stated that the script is almost completely finalized and that he has already received funding for the film, and that production will commence once the script is finalized. In September 2011, it was revealed that William Monahan had been brought in to add the finishing touches to Miller's screenplay. In March 2012, Rodriguez announced that production on Sin City 2 would begin in mid-2012. He also mentioned that the cast would be "of the same caliber and eclecticism" as that of the previous film. It was also announced the film would be released in 3D.
On April 13, 2012, the film was confirmed, in addition to the new title, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The film was expected to go into production in the summer of 2012, but principal photography began near the end of October 2012. On June 17, 2013, the film's release date was pushed back from October 4, 2013, until August 22, 2014. Rodriguez later explained that the film was always intended for release in 2014 and that they were merely holding the October date for Machete Kills.
Back in 2005, Sin City, was kind of a watermark for adaptations of graphic novels. After all, from a visual standpoint, it was unlike any film that's ever been made. Shot entirely on a digital backlot, the film looked as if it was directly leaping out of the pages of Frank Miller's graphic novel onto the screen. Digital backdrops up until that time had experienced mixed results. I personally thought George Lucas's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), shot almost entirely on digital as well, looked fake and dingy. However, Rodriguez, a pioneer of digital filmmaking turned the look of Sin City into something amazing.
Rodriguez is again successful at replicating the look of Sin City in A Dame to Kill For. There's no doubt this film is simply stunning to look at and it's visual creativity knows no bounds. The problem with A Dame to Kill For is story wise, it doesn't have the same overall impact as Sin City did.
A Dame to Kill For features four story segments, three of which function as prequels to the first film and one of which occurs after the events of Sin City. The title comes from Frank Miller's second book of the Sin City series. One of the smaller plots of the film is based on the short story "Just Another Saturday Night", which is collected in Booze, Broads, & Bullets, the sixth book in the comic series. Two original stories ("The Long Bad Night" and "Nancy's Last Dance") were created exclusively for the film written by Miller.
"Just Another Saturday Night" is the first segment of the film, and it's riveting. Rodriguez and Miller were wise to start off the film by letting us get re-introduced to one of the most popular characters from the first film, Marv, played again wonderfully by Mickey Rourke. It's a short opening, and it's not the last time in the film we'll see Marv, but it's an effective way to open the film.
The next story, "The Long Bad Night", created exclusively for the film by Miller, is rather disappointing. Joseph Gordon Levitt, who plays Johnny, and Powers Boothe, who plays Senator Roark, give two really good performances. However, though the segment starts out promising, the ending is less-than-satisfying. Ultimately, it doesn't live up to other Sin City material.
The third, longest, and best segment in the film is "A Dame to Kill For". Featuring Dwight McCarthy, in a pre surgery appearance, played effectively by Josh Brolin, struggles with his inner demons and tries to maintain control until his former lover, Ava Lord, returns, wanting his help to escape her abusive husband, billionaire Damien Lord and his massive bodyguard Manute. The highlight of this segment and the film, is Eva Green as Ava. From a visual standpoint, she's gorgeous, and most of the films nudity comes from her. However, she's more than just a body, and as she proved in the 300 sequel, she can handle Miller's material. Green cements her scene-stealing credentials with a perfect femme fatale impersonation. Whether clothed or naked, she rivets the camera's attention. Also turning in great work is the underrated Marton Csokas (who was also in Kingdom of Heaven with Green), as Damien Lord, and Ray Liotta as Joey.
Finally "Nancy's Last Dance", also created specifically for the film by Miller, is the most disappointing and uneven aspect of the film. As the only story that takes place after the events of the first film, it's rather cliche and drags. Jessica Alba is fine, however, playing dark and brooding isn't necessarily her strongest asset, and Nancy's turn to the dark side isn't very convincing. The segment is beautifully filmed as always, and there are some effective moments, but overall it left me unsatisfied at the ending of the film.
So out of four segments, I'd say this film goes 2 for 4 in effectiveness. "Just Another Saturday Night" and "A Dame to Kill For" are really good, and "The Long Bad Night and "Nancy's Last Dance" are pretty disappointing.
Overall, I give the film three out of four stars. Fans of Sin City should be satisfied, however, considering the extremely long wait between films, A Dame to Kill For doesn't leave the viewer completely satisfied.