“Sin City is where you go in with your eyes open or you don’t come out at all,” says Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to himself and the audience in a monotone voice-over, much like the classic private eye film noirs as he gets ready to head into the city for a dangerous night of gambling in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
Once again Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez bring to the big screen the city that makes Gotham look like a paradise. The film takes place four years after Detective John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) saved Nancy (Jessica Alba) from Senator Roark’s degenerate son. Suffering from depression since losing the only man she ever loved, Nancy still pines for the love of her life, grieving over Hartigan’s grave when she’s not dancing at the strip club. Trying to build up the courage to kill the corrupt Roark who she blames for Hartigan’s selfless suicide, Nancy uses her desire for revenge to fuel her practice at a firing range using Hartigan’s old gun.
Meanwhile, Johnny has arrived at Sin City’s main poker game where Roark (Powers Boothe), the Police Captain, and a few other corrupt individuals always play every Saturday night. Convinced he’s going to have the luckiest night of his life, Johnny sets out with his new lucky charm, Marcie (Julia Garner), to the back room to join the poker game and take Roark for every cent he’s worth. Johnny’s just a bit too cocky to realize it just might mean losing his life.
Private eye Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) has just finished working another case for a client when he gets a call from his old flame Ava (Eva Green). She broke his heart but now she needs his help, and desperate and fearful she pleads with Dwight to forgive her for her past deeds and to at least remember her. His interest piqued, Dwight gets Ava to admit she’s afraid her abusive billionaire husband and his massive bodyguard are going to kill her soon. Letting his emotions get the better of him, Dwight heads out to take on her husband and bodyguard not realizing what Ava’s true intentions are.
Gritty, stylish, and with a foreboding tone, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a visually impressive film, albeit one that fails to create any interesting characters the audience will connect with or even root for. It’s an unnecessary and unoriginal sequel which borrows, repeats, and steals from its predecessor as well as classic noirs including Body Heat and Double Indemnity.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny is about as one-dimensional a character as you can get who only wants to show up the corrupt senator in order to try to become a living – or dead – legend…yawn. His whole storyline titled “The Long Bad Night” goes nowhere and is a complete waste of Gordon-Levitt’s talent.
Josh Brolin delivers a solid performance stepping into the role of Dwight (Clive Owen portrayed the character in the original film), a tough, angry PI who ends up in way over his head with his former flame Ava. Unfortunately, the story lets him down as the plot is predictable and has been done time and time again in superior films.
The third storyline involving Jessica Alba’s Nancy working up the courage and going a little insane as she plots to avenge Hartigan’s death by going after Roark is simple, yet it’s the only story of the three to have any kind of heart or emotion. With Bruce Willis returning as Hartigan’s spirit still watching over Nancy and Mickey Rourke as Marv her surrogate big brother and protector, “Nancy’s Last Dance” is the one storyline that should have had all the characters eventually come together and be a part of. It should have also been the longest instead of the shortest.
The black and white look mixed with the limited use of color on the screen is all very arresting but not groundbreaking the way it was back in 2005 when Sin City hit screens. In fact, the rendering of the city and cars was better, sharper, and edgier in the first film.
Bleak and soulless, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an empty sequel. Save your time and money and just watch Sin City again.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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