Sin City’s Still As Brutal, But The Players Are Just Going Through The Motions. Visually Stunning, With A 3D Boost, But Soulless.
In many ways, it’s hard to review Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ belated pulp noir sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For with a straight face. A stramash of hard-boiled archetypes dialled up to absurdity, ridiculous notions of masculinity go backhand in beautiful face with great dollops of misogyny, soaked in blood, tears and whiskey. The Bechdel test does not apply here folks; it wouldn’t be seen dead in this neck of the woods.
If you can check your standard human decency sensibilities at the door, there was much to love about the first Sin City’s Tarantino-style hyper-violence done in style. Miller’s graphic novels, taking the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett to new depths, have a damn dirty appeal to them that has gone AWOL here.
The sumptuous black and white aesthetics shot though with a shock of blonde hair or a dash of bloody red, given a welcome 3D boost here, are by far the best thing Sin City: A Dame To Kill has going for it. The rest seems to be a plodding retreat with less conviction to paper over the already thin characters and plot. Bruce Willis’ Hartigan is here reduced to a mopey ghost cameo that veers into the seriously cheesy, with Powers Boothe once again a highlight, gnawing the scenery with aplomb as the pantomime evil Senator Roark. Mickey Rourke’s growling Marv is also back, meaner than ever, gleefully slaughtering young college punks in the viscerally fun opening sequence.
Alas, it’s all a bit lifeless from thereon in, and I don’t just mean the ludicrously high body count, replete with comically exaggerated deaths. Back in 2005, we hadn’t seen such a spectacularly graphic rendition of the comic book medium on the big screen. Zak Snyder’s 300 came out the following year, and there’s been plenty of similarly visual experiments since. To justify a sequel, Rodriguez (and let’s face it, this is all him) really had to lift his game. He doesn’t.
Eva Green has a thankless task, gliding though the motions of Ava, a boringly predictable femme fatale who consumes much of the runtime, and a large percentage of the men in town too. Green, usually spot on at this stuff, recently in 300: Rise of An Empire but also her traitorous Bond girl in Casino Royale, Bond girl in Casino Royale, can’t seem to rouse the required campy campy excess or smouldering malice needed here. Flashing your boobs every second scene is not a substitute.
Josh Brolin, as her spurned lover Dwight, fares slightly better, but it’s juts a rinse repat of Willis last time round. The always-likeable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as a lucky gambler who just can’t lose, is also a fun addition, but seems a bit out of his depth compared to the hulks throwing their weight around him.
Once again there’s a series of interlocking stories, but they all seem to run out of steam. Characters pop up in a blaze of glory then fizzle out just as quickly. Christopher Meloni’s seemingly honourable cop makes little impression while Jamie Chung’s katana-wilding Miho is criminally underused. Women in general come mostly naked, or head-to-toe in gimp leathers. The latter are the good guys. A procession of blink and you’ll miss ‘em cameos include Ray Liotta, a standard issue feature for this sort of movie, Rosario Dawson, Jeremy Piven and even Lady Gaga. Poor Jessica Alba’s Nancy seems to have given up on life since the first flick, and by the time her vengeance comes around, we’ve given up on the film.
Marv’s showdown with a towering Denis Haysbert, as Ava’s chauffeur turned bodyguard turned acolyte is a bone-crunching blast of rare thrills and spills, but it’s become exceedingly clear that this Dame’s all about the looks, with nothing going on under the fur coat.
Stephen A Russell