In 2005, Frank Miller’s popular series of neo-noir graphic novels Sin City, were brought to life on the silver screen to breathtaking effect, teaming up with grindhouse director Robert Rodriguez to create a film so striking and innovative, as the very first picture shot almost entirely on green screen. Nine years on, and such a technique is no longer fresh or unprecedented, meaning that this eagerly anticipated sequel needs a strong narrative to match the stylistic fervour, yet sadly that’s exactly where this feature falls short.
It seems that little has changed in the decrepit, shady setting that is Sin City, as the hard boiled inhabitants roam the streets, as we reconnect with the likes of Marv (Mickey Rourke), who still spends his nights just metres away from the beguiling stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba), watching on as she entertains the swamp of hapless degenerates. In the back room Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) plays poker, where he meets a new challenger, the unabashed Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) makes his bow. In the meantime, the callous, impetuous Dwight (Josh Brolin) longs to win back the heart of the vindictive seductress Ava (Eva Green), who has a nefarious plan of her own.
What is undeniable with A Dame to Kill For, is the brooding, desolate atmosphere that exists, as a picture that is even more aesthetically gratifying than the preceding endeavour. The monochrome backdrop is illuminated by the occasional implementation of colour, particularly memorable when it’s a striking shade of claret, with blood a regular embellishment to this dour backdrop. The cartoon, almost animated like approach serves this title well, as it dampens the severity of the violence that exists, adding a surrealism to a film otherwise overwhelmed by its distinct brutality, with the unforgiving sound of pounding flesh, or fracturing bones prevalent.
Conversely, and as feared, here is a film that is all style and little substance, as a picture that struggles to compel and engross. You find yourself captivated and mesmerised by the visual experience, caught up in it all until you reach the latter stages, when you’re overcome with just how unsatisfying the narrative structure is. The introduction of new characters is imperative, and while commendable in their radiating of charisma, they inadvertently play the roles with a contrivance of sorts, as the latest additions, unlike those in the first production, are fully aware of how this film will turn out, and that consciousness breeds performances that play up too forcefully to what made the first so successful.
In spite of the misgivings that exist, the length of time between these two pictures allows Miller and Rodriguez to play on the notion of nostalgia, and not deviate too far away from Sin City’s unique selling point, as a film that is similar in tone and execution to what came before, surely doing enough to appease the pre-established fans that exist, while still managing to allure those unenlightened by this universe. Sin City is by no means a place you’d wish to book a family holiday, but 102 minutes immersed in this melancholic world does just the trick.