Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Dennis Haysbert
The violence and bloodshed is always high in the corrupt underworld of fictional town Basin City. Like its predecessor, the film is composed of various vignettes with some characters overlapping from one story to the next. Nancy (Alba) is an exotic dancer at Kadie’s Saloon and is severely damaged after the death of her lover John Hartigan (Willis). She plans on seeking out revenge on Senator Roark (Boothe) who was involved in his death. Marv (Rourke) is a regular at Kadie’s and keeps a steady eye on Nancy. He has his own issues and is someone you don’t want to mess with in a dark alley. Johnny (Levitt) is a hot-shot gambler who never loses. Let’s just say that after winning against Senator Roark, he needs to watch his back. The title storyline involves Dwight (Brolin) who is caught in a web of mysterious torture when his former flame Ava (Green) shows up and begs for forgiveness. She can’t escape from his head, and yet again, he is lured into her deceitful ways. What he doesn’t know is that she may have ulterior motives.
Nine years have passed since the release of the first film which was an adaptation of the popular Frank Miller graphic novel. He has teamed up again with director Robert Rodriguez for a follow-up that has been in the works since the first one was released. Back then, Angelina Jolie was being considered for the lead role. The first film was groundbreaking in its approach with using the digital effects and colorization techniques to effectively recreate Miller’s work into a different medium. Many frames in the movie were identical to the way they were illustrated in the novel. The same look and feel accompanies this film, but it doesn’t quite have that same dynamic punch that the first one had due to the fact that we now have already seen it used and have seen other movies attempt it as well. There is also a consistency issue here where I don’t feel like Rodriguez or Miller took the time to really craft each scene using this technique. They used up a majority of their energy on the opening sequence and some of the more action heavy scenes, but neglected the more dialogue filled scenes. It’s the kind of effect that really pops and is visually stunning when it’s used, but it is clearly evident and sorely missed when it’s not added in. It’s very rare when I endorse 3D, but it really enhances the effects here and really brings Miller’s vision to life as you witness the artwork and storyboards coming off the page.
Miller adapted some of his older stories for this film and wrote two new ones in addition. It’s pretty imperative to watch the first film before seeing this one. Even if you’ve seen it before, give it another viewing before watching the sequel. We have many returning characters as well as new ones with direct references to what happened in the first movie. For instance, Jessica Alba’s Nancy storyline is a continuation of her story in the first one. Josh Brolin’s Dwight storyline acts as a prequel with him playing the younger version of the same character Clive Owen previously played. If I hadn’t read about this before seeing the movie, I might not have picked up on it. Rodriguez is billed as having shot and cut the film, and I think the sequencing of it all is oddly structured. We get introduced to the Marv, Johnny, and Nancy plots in the beginning and then it shifts to tell the whole story of Dwight/Ava and then it goes back to finish those first few stories we were introduced to. It feels too choppy and inconsistent without it feeling as cohesive as the first movie.
It is fun seeing a majority of the original cast come to play their corrupt and flawed characters. Some roles have been recast. Dennis Haysbert takes over the role of Manute, Ava’s bodyguard, who was previously played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Jeremy Piven fills Michael Madsen’s shoes as Bob. I don’t know how the directing duties were split up between Rodriguez and Miller, but the acting is a bit inconsistent at times. I found it odd that all of the men spoke in this slow, deep, mysterious tone that is very repetitive after a while. There was no real variety in their vocal tone. At the same time, some actors are having a devilishly good time and are definitely playing into the comic book nature of the material. Green, Rourke, and Boothe are the definite stand-outs. Green is sultry, sexy, and nude a majority of the movie. Boothe is as diabolical as always as Senator Roark. I am a big fan of his and have seen him in numerous film and television roles, and he is always playing the evil and corrupt bad guy. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen him play a gentle, loveable character. He’s so great at being these brutal characters, but I’d love to see him do a complete 180 next time. The scene-stealer belongs to Christopher Lloyd. Yes, that Christopher Lloyd, the genius that never seems to work anymore. He shares a funny scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. If you are in your early 30s, like yours truly, you may get a kick out the fact that this is a mini Angels in the Outfield reunion from when Gordon-Levitt was a child actor. My brother and I grew up on that movie!
It’s hard not to leave the movie and have that feeling like this sequel has come out a bit too late. The first movie came out before the superhero/comic book movie trend really took off. It was groundbreaking in its approach to the style and vision of Miller’s world. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is, by no means, a bad movie, but there is a bit of a disappointment that it just isn’t as good as the first one. It is still fun to watch the visuals and wonder how they shot all of it. It has a great ensemble as some of the characters are wickedly juicy. I am curious if fans will either be severely disappointed or like it just enough because they enjoy Miller’s work and style. I don’t believe it will gain the attention of any newbies
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? If you loved the first one, you will like this one.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS