Sleek, stylish and sexy without a doubt but the fault lies with substance in the concoction of it all. The film’s biggest sins are in feeling stretched out, familiar and not having that same oomph factor the 2005 movie came with. There’s no serious impact or sense of noir amazement sadly, though it’s still a superbly watchable film with shadows, sleaze and splatter lighting up Basin City as per usual.
That’s a lot of ‘S’ alliteration crammed into one paragraph and for that I apologise. Sliding swiftly sideways let’s see what the story serves up. It’s a mix of four plots that come along as prequel and sequel material to the first film. One is short and gives us more of the Marv (Mickey Rourke) magic as he deals with some frat boys. The Long Bad Night comes in two parts and sees newcomer Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) use his luck and skill at poker cost him more than he bargained for when he sits at the table of Senator Roarke (Powers Booth). The titular subheading of this film features a pre Clive Owen Dwight (Josh Brolin) meeting up with old flame Ava Lord (Eva Green) and trying to help her from an apparently abusive husband though getting out of his detective ways and back into action could be dangerous. The last segment is Nancy’s Last Dance and deals with Nancy (Jessica Alba) trying to train up to kill Roarke thanks to him leading Hartigan (Bruce Willis) to commit suicide, with the help of Marv she desires to finally be strong, leave the strip club behind and murder the corrupted Senator.
Of all the things leading this film to be a box office bomb, it’s been time. A powerful and unforgiving master tis time and the nine years between the bold and greatly stylish first taste now feels slightly stale and not overly worth the long gap. Don’t get me wrong this movie still looks slick and comes dripping with sultry gloss and deep red blood but now there’s been a few films in the same vein as this and it doesn’t feel as original anymore. The white silhouettes and colour splashes are still fun to watch but just not as cool as they were before. If this sequel/prequel had come out three to maybe even five years after the first it could have succeeded better I think, but a nearly 10 year wait is just too long and even for a Sin City lover like myself I grew tired of on and off rumours waiting for this film to come.
There’s still handfuls of enjoyment to be had in watching both the grime and glamour of this brutal city unfold and scenes come with that graphic novel stamp that keep scenes from becoming slightly boring as they might do if they weren’t shot in the way they were. It does feel drawn out longer than perhaps necessary but there’s plenty of thriller giddiness to be found in the dingy corners of Basin City. The saxophone backed voice overs are deliberately over the top and filled with strings of image stirring descriptions but that’s part of the delicious territory and I love the narration. There’s still vague echoes of the violent world the 2005 film smacked cinemas with but not as much which is a let down. Considering the 18 rating there could have been more utilising of Marv’s bloody nature and the sadistic villainous side of proceedings crumble for a pretty standard corrupted baddie. Most kill shots and hand to hand offings are seen in the whites and blacks of comic book panel mode and grotesque villains such as the Yellow Bastard and Elijah Wood’s Kevin are a distant memory with Roarke and one other the only true big bad names and they’re both just pretty normal people, no yellow skinned nastiness or white glassed cannibalism here guys.
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez direct together and achieve in providing audiences with the same fantastic visuals as before. They do however stumble in gaining that same bottled genius of interweaving tales and boldly drawn violence. The stories here work now and then but feel stitched together in the same way that I’d badly stitch up a jumper. Shocking self sewing declarations and more alliteration aside, A Dame to Kill For doesn’t ever work in making feel like you’d kill to see this again. I’ve been waiting so long and adored the first one but this feels lost and doesn’t hit hard like it should. The stories aren’t really interesting and dark as before. The only one that had some charisma and depth was Dwight, Gail and Ava’s story. Nancy’s story as the final chapter did come with some great moments too and that’s not just counting Alba shaking what her mamma gave her. It worked because it felt like it was attached to the first film and there was nostalgia thanks to that, I feel like I can use the word nostalgia because nine years is a long time ago!
Mickey Rourke is always brilliant, bulky and up for trouble as Marv and he commits to the role under the square jawed prosthetic as fantastically as before. He delivers his voice over lines with the same gravelly tone that gives the film a hard edged steel needed to sell the film noir genre. Josh Brolin does well in trying to convince us he’s Dwight from before the Big Fat Kill and he sells the developing urge to kill bad eggs and yet look after attractive women from Old Town just as Clive Owen did. Powers Booth has a meatier role this time around and gives his character every devil eyed and snarled grimace to make you damn well sure he’s the man to be wary of. He too has the gravelly voice that every good film noir must have and after TV’s ‘Nashville’ you’re even more sure Booth is set for rich powerful baddies. Jessica Alba is more twisted and descending into drink and vengeance as she wishes to kill Roarke, she convinces us she’s on the warpath and haunted by Hartigan and truly Alba’s best acting comes as playing Nancy in both ‘Sin City’ films. The scarred aftermath of her femme fatale days give her time to breath as a more confident woman and after a steamy last dance she’s down to business. Eva Green provides some of the best stuff in the film and when she’s not in the story then the movie can feel like it’s dragging. She breathes life into the feature as Green always manages to do, she’s smart, sassy and funny and after many angled shots of her breasts she can still show she’s not just a body but a fine acting talent. Levitt, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple and Christopher Lloyd are fun and interesting additions but they’re all really just bit parts to the main event and don’t add a whole degree of anything wow.
Disappointingly not as fresh as the original, but if you’re a Sin City fan or someone who likes film noir then this film will do more than enough to occupy your time and keep you wrapped up with some snappy and swish stuffed gleam. There’s more style than substance here but that’s not an awful sin if you choose to accept it.