'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' review: A bloody good time at the movies

Joseph Gordon Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (Courtesy)

Joseph Gordon Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (Courtesy)

Rating

3.5 Stars3.5/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:10 PM ET

With nine years gone since the first Sin City film, it was way too long, yet well worth the wait, to finally get the sequel.

Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an ultra-violent, hedonistic and sometimes brilliant bit of business. It is just like the first film, although it obviously lacks the ‘wow’ factor of originality. Call it deja vu, or maybe deja voodoo.

Faithfully based on Miller’s pulpy, neo-noir, graphic novels of the 1990s, both Sin City films follow the misfortunes of the denizens of Basin City, a Sodom & Gomorrah somewhere in the U.S. southwest where crime, sexual perversion, exploitation and blatant corruption are the new normal.

To heighten the stakes and push the films into an impressionistic hyper-reality, co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Miller abandon realism and tell Miller’s sordid stories like a living comic book. Mostly in black-and-white with splashes of colour to emphasize a singular character or a tangential storyline.

If you have already seen the original 2005 film, you know what I mean.

Knowing its plot points will also help to make sense of the dense revenge activity in A Dame to Kill For, which sits somewhat in the middle of the overall timeline of Miller’s original comic books, with two original storylines added to the mix — Nancy’s Last Dance and The Long, Bad Night. It is literally a sequel some years after the end of Sin City, with Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) appearing as an unseen ghost to a now-adult Nancy (Jessica Alba). Nobody has a sixth sense in this perverse universe. Willis talks to himself — and us.

A Dame to Kill For is actually not all that hard to figure out, if you pay attention. Just start by embracing one of the basic noir rules: Never trust a dame like the one in the title. You might end up dead or severely damaged yourself. That rule, of course, is lost on the new film’s two anti-heroes: Dwight (Josh Brolin taking over the hard-bitten leading man role originally played by Clive Owen) and Marv (the cement-headed avenging angel played by Mickey Rourke).

Both men get involved with the fate of Dwight’s sexy but lethal ex, Ava (Eva Green). She is the dame and a lot of people will die by hand-to-hand combat, by arrow, by sword and by gun. Heavily armed, scantily clad prostitutes get involved in the bloodbath. Femme fatales have your guts for garters if you dare a double-cross.

Meanwhile, a slick young gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) runs afoul of the crime kingpin Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a family melodrama, while other key roles are played by Rosario Dawson (Gail), Dennis Haysbert (the brute Manute, originally played by Michael Clarke Duncan), Ray Liotta (Joey), Jeremy Piven (Bob), Christopher Meloni (Mort), Stacy Keach (who is unrecognizable under mutation makeup as Wallenquist), Lady Gaga (Bertha) and Christopher Lloyd (who channels his inner mad scientist as Dr. Kroenig). All the acting is crisp, blunt, rude and perfect for a modern film noir.

 Only rarely does the violence mean anything personal. Most of the splashiest blood-letting, including the savage beheadings by Miho (Jamie Chung), is cartoon stuff meant to look cool with digitally produced, minimalist backgrounds.

On special occasions, however, the Rodriguez-Miller team makes the violence emotionally real, even shattering, but only when Brolin, Rourke and Green are on the scene.

Those moments belie the fact that most of the Sin City universe has mostly been strip-mined of morality and humanity. I have no idea why A Dame to Kill For even needs to exist, from that perspective. But it is so dazzling to behold, especially in the 3D version, that you dive into Miller’s tar pit of despair, ennui, degradation and violence in the blink of a blood-shot eye.

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