[ Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller; Screenwriter: Frank Miller; Starring: Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Bruce Willis, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven; Running time: 101 minutes; Certification: 18 ]
It’s nine long years we’ve been waiting for a sequel to what is arguably Robert Rodriguez’s best film; the quasi-neo-noir, comically violent, CGI-guzzling action ride that is Sin City. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that Sin City is Rodriguez’s only film which audiences really demanded a sequel for. Sure, there are some hardcore fans of the Mariachi trilogy, but neither El Mariachi nor Desperado are films that particularly cry out for sequels. Likewise, while Machete is kind of fun, I don’t think anyone particularly felt the need to see another one, and From Dusk Till Dawn is pretty much perfect the way it is (although Rodriguez didn’t actually have anything to do with its forgotten sequels). But Sin City, there was something about it. We just needed to see more of this world that had been so beautifully transferred from comic to screen.
I suppose we should be grateful that Rodriguez hasn’t handed the baton over to someone else for this second delve into the fictional setting of Basin City. We saw how wrong things can go when a visually unique director hands over his passion project/comic book adaptation to another pair of hands with 300: Rise Of An Empire (which also starred Eva Green in a saucy, devilish role that she does so well). What began as something enormously exciting and stylish and unique suddenly became dull and languid as a new pair of hands attempted to deploy someone else’s tricks – but there are no such problems here. A Dame To Kill For shares the same gorgeous, rich template as its predecessor, boasting impressively fluid, sweeping visuals to narrate its three interconnecting storylines of violence, greed and revenge. All green-screened, there’s something weird and wonderful about the backdrop as certain characters, or blood stains, appear in colour, or silhouettes evoke the Rorschach inkblot test, organic white against pitch black. One thing’s clear: Rodriguez is at home in Sin City.
The enormous cast boasts name after name, with the new additions settling in nicely. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has all the class required to rock about in a neatly trimmed suit delivering cool, classy lines as he takes on Senator Roark (the bad guy from the first film) at high-stakes poker, and Josh Brolin, recasting Clive Owen’s character, looks right at home, but it’s Eva Green who steals the limelight – less for her performance, more for her image. The striking, glowing green eyes, the extraordinary curves, the displacing, subversive grin; she’s a perfect fit for this wicked, unforgiving world. Rise Of An Empire utilised her in a similar way (one of the few things it did right), but A Dame To Kill lets her shine by actually placing a good film around her.
A good film that’s not quite as good as the first one, that is. On an action and visual level, A Dame To Kill for is superb. Always entertaining and fun, offering up everything we want from a Sin City film without taming down for a studio-soft market, it’s let down only by the three storylines not quite gelling together as smoothly as I’d like. The first film basically devoted a separate storyline to each act, which worked nicely, but A Dame To Kill For’s script rations portions of the characters’ stories throughout, resulting in a slight jarring as we go back and forth between different characters with different struggles. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s story feels particularly out of place – while perfectly good and entertaining in its own right, the whole thing feels oddly insignificant in comparison with the other two. On the other hand, who really cares? It’s a Robert Rodriguez film, you like them or you don’t. If you’re in the former group, A Dame To Kill For is his best in years.