BWW Review: SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR Is Paint By Numbers Disappointment
There is a rule that is generally accepted by all movie fans; while a sequel might eclipse its original in box office receipts, merchandise sales, and social media presence, it is only on rare occasions when it can match its predecessor in terms in quality. That rule is especially true when it comes to originals that are marked by an innovation or creative flare that revolutionizes, or defies, its genre. Unfortunately, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is not one of those rare occasions. Titular grammatical error aside, this listless sequel provides none of the awe-inspiring spectacle of its far superior original.
Again directed by both Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, who co-helmed the first "Sin City," the script (by Miller) is similar in structure to the original, but never even approaches the creative success that you so desperately want from it. Instead it seems like a rather vanilla paint-by-numbers retread, in which the creative team avoided nearly all color literal and figurative.
In the literal sense, the sequel retains the stark visual palette that is so associated with Miller's graphic novels. The black and white canvas, accented with splashes of color, is the move's strongest trait. Not doing much differently from the previous movie won't score you any points for originality, but, just in terms of the film's overall look, it's still pretty stunning.
Unfortunately, the rest of the production seems as if everything was in service to, or simply relied on, that style, with little effort made at creating satisfying stories. The four separate, but somewhat overlapping, tales do little to create any true investment in their characters. Whether they are motivated by revenge, love, or loss, none of the characters comes near earning any sympathy. The movie's final story, which sees Jessica Alba's Nancy seek vengeance for the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) in the first film, delivers a rather shockingly anticlimactic ending. Even after sitting through five minutes of the credits, I kept expecting there to be something more... anything more.
The cast is led by a glut of generally reliable actors including Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Denins Haysbert; and has some perennial favorites in supporting roles, like Rosario Dawson, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd; but nearly all either under-deliver or were misused. You might notice that I did not include Alba on either list, that's because I seem to be the only man in the world that has never seen her appeal. Yes, she looks good in her skimpy exotic dancer costumes, but beyond that, her performance does little to elicit even the tiniest of reactions.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Green, who spent every last (mainly nude) second of her screen time chewing every last ounce of the black-and-white scenery. She gave everything she had to try to save this movie, which is a pretty thankless job for a character as unlikeable as hers. I wanted desperately to root for Green's bad guy, but the script just would not let me like her. It's too bad too, because she was the only character that even approached getting me to care.
In addition to Green, Booth seems to be the only actor not phoning in his performance. Like Green, Booth has ramped up his performance level so high that he makes those around him appear to be sleepwalking. Granted he has made a pretty successful career out of playing slight variations of this same character; but thank goodness for him and Green, because otherwise I might have given up on the film all together.