DIR: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller • WRI: Elan Mastai • PRO: Sergei Bespalov, Aaron Kaufman, Stephen L’Heureux, Mark C. Manuel, Robert Rodriguez • ED: Robert Rodriguez • DOP: Robert Rodriguez • DES: Caylah Eddleblute Steve Joyner • MUS; Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel • Cast: Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis
Released just under a decade since their first foray into the fully-digital world of Sin City, creator Frank Miller and director Robert Rodriguez continue their buddying up to the realm of neo-noir graphic-filming with a new chapter. Anticipation was high for this one: with so much time to work on a sequel to such a well-received original, it seemed like the combination of Rodriguez’ dedication to the adaptation and Miller’s stellar source material could do no wrong.
Unfortunately for all involved, the length of time between the ground-breaking first and pretty-similar second hasn’t actually helped the cause. When Sin City burst on the scene in 2005 with all the brilliance of something fresh, it looked and felt like a new era of cinema. Digital filming showed its unique possibilities, and manipulation of colour and bleached setups did the impossible in bringing a graphic novel to full visual realisation onscreen. Most importantly, the stories, characters and actors were captivating from the get-go. A Dame to Kill For does suffer somewhat, then, from comparison to the first – a constant challenge for sequels of all types, but perhaps most particularly for movies with a distinctive storytelling technique. All the notes of cheesiness, brutality and hyper-masculinity are in place as before, but somehow it never quite engages.
Most of the fault lies with the chosen storylines, but the actors must also take responsibility. While notables like Jessica Alba (Nancy) and Mickey Rourke (Marv) reprise their roles, it is with visibly less enthusiasm, or perhaps too much awareness of the undercurrent of ‘coolness’ attached to their characters. Newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt promises much, delivers some, but fades into the background far too quickly to really get a grip on him – unfortunate for an actor who generally performs. Taking over Dwight’s old face is Josh Brolin, whose B-movie credentials should make him a perfect insert for Sin City’s palette. He gamely attacks the storyline of A Dame to Kill For, battling the raw sexuality of Eva Green’s Ava, but his monotonous narration is probably one of the worst things about the movie. Surprisingly, this instalment takes the power away from its women and wallows in some pretty boring damsel-in-distress tableaus…Ava is the only female character to really grab the moment and terrorise the screen, which is especially shocking considering Gail (Rosario Dawson) makes an appearance. One of the finest fighters in Old Town, Gail has always kept the girls safe and police out, but in this story barely touches the significant badassery Sin City originally afforded her. Even Nancy’s angry transformation comes too little too late, and the intertwining stories do little to alleviate the flat feeling that permeates throughout.
Perhaps more thrills might have ensued had the screening been in 3D, as there were certainly scenes that were made specifically to wow the eyes of a 3D viewer, but overall it’s undeniable that A Dame to Kill For repeats the formula of Sin City without recapturing its essence. Visually conforming to the beauty of the first, it looks great but feels repetitive – despite some brief moments of comedy, and lovingly-portrayed grotesquery, it never quite reclaims the form’s sheer brilliance. Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything…except, it would seem, an original addition to the legacy.
16 (See IFCO for details)
Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For is released 25th August