The followup to 2005’s eye-popping Sin City is neither the dazzler I hoped for nor the disaster I feared. But “meh” is hardly the reaction you expect from a movie in which Eva Green and Jessica Alba shake their ta-tas and Mickey Rourke and Josh Brolin send souls screaming into hell. And this time they do it in 3-D. Fighters and femme fatales are the staples of Frank Miller’s just-famed graphic novels. And Robert Rodriquez was wise to ask Miller to join him again to direct. The movie looks good enough to inspire a million screensavers. It’s just that Sin City: A Dame To Kill For doesn’t explode onscreen the way the first one did. Miller’s monochrome palette, splashed with color that shines like a whore’s lip gloss, doesn’t startle as it once did. It’s like running into an ex-love and realizing that, damn, the thrill is gone.
Some of the old gang is still around. Mickey Rourke, in a fake face that looks like a parody of bad plastic surgery, is back as hulking Marv. This time Marv has amnesia, which helps if you want to fill in the audience on what happened nine years ago. Bruce Willis also makes an appearance as Hartigan, the cop who blew his head off in the first movie. Huh? Don’t fret. Willis is accustomed to being a ghost who sees dead people. Hartigan is still keeping an eye on Nancy (Alba), the girl he saved from a rapist when she was only eleven and who is now stripping while planning revenge on Sen. Roark (Powers Boothe, doing snarling evil better than anyone). Roark is the father of the yellow-skinned perv who tried to rape Nancy until Hartigan de-balled him.
When the script isn’t playing catchup, Miller adds a few new wrinkles. The always welcome Joseph Gordon-Levitt hits Sin City as Johnny, a young gambler who dares to take on Roark in a game of high stakes poker. Big mistake. And Eva Green, a living, breathing definition of steamy, plays – you guessed it – a dame to kill for. It’s not hard for this dame to wrap P.I. Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) around her sexy finger. Wait. Didn’t Clive Owen play Dwight the last time? He did. And asking questions like that will only make this sequel more of a laborious puzzle.
The upshot is that Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is forced to trade on the kick the first film gave us. And that kick now suffers from stiff joints. The compensations, like Lady Gaga doing a cheeky cameo as barmaid who tells a customer she can’t find anything that isn’t good about the way he smells, can’t make up for the way the movie starts to smell like a lazy, repetitive do-over.