Sin City wasn’t really a movie anyone was waiting around with baited breath to spawn a sequel. Yeah, the first movie was good, but it was good in a one-in-a-million type of way, having the best combination of cheese, blood, guts, and style that one could hope for in a Frank Miller production. This was probably due to the co-direction of the ever stylistic Robert Rodriguez, and likely had less to do with Frank Miller’s writing or directorial input. When Miller went on to direct The Spirit, he ended up making an infinitely sillier movie that was so devoid of the stylistic violence that carried Sin City that the inane writing almost seemed like an intentional effort to sink the film. And now here we are, nine years after the first Sin City with A Dame To Kill For, a film that only seems to exist because Rodriguez and Miller agreed to do a sequel back in 2006 and have only just now gotten the time and resources together to make it happen long after anyone is likely to give a damn.
If you’re looking for more Sin City, then this film very basically delivers on that front. The same overly-pulpy noir narrations accompany stories of bad people doing bad things, and even the good guys are morally compromised. The first film managed to make this work because it felt like junk food, a guilty pleasure that combined adolescent obsessions with noir violence and comic book aesthetics, distracting you from the inherently shallow nature of its stories by shifting between them in vaguely interlocking fashion. A Dame To Kill For, though, attempts the same thing while trying to take place both before and after the first film, making any sense of continuity convoluted and confusing.
The first film also had an advantage in that the stories all felt unique, with characters that were fleshed out as much as they needed to be and were memorable precisely because they didn’t overstay their welcome. The sequel screws that up by focusing heavily on bringing back old characters, who now feel like one-note caricatures of their representations in the first film played by actors who have aged too much to be convincing in their return to the roles. But even though that surreality could otherwise be forgivable, the film’s repetitive elements make this one a pale shadow of its predecessor. Two of the four stories have the same primary antagonist, and two of them use emotional manipulation of Mickey Rourke’s Marv to take down an army of bad guys. This is lazy writing even by Frank Miller standards, and its style can’t make up for its lack of substance.
And this is primarily because the style isn’t even as gratuitous as the first film. The film’s violence has a routine, matter-of-fact nature to it that robs it of any emotional impact. Quick cuts to men dying to mundane gunshots and stab wounds is not exciting, and even when the film does opt to show us a modicum of gore, it feels like something that was done better in the first film.
Normally, I would try to judge a film on its own merits without excessive comparison to its progenitor, but Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is practically inviting me to do so. It doesn’t have an identity separate from its better realized older sibling, and it so desperately tries to mime Sin City that it comes across as pathetic. If you’re one of the two people who have been craving a new cinematic installment in the Sin City franchise, you probably already saw this in theaters. Everyone else doesn’t need to bother; the first film will scratch that itch if you have it.
Did anyone else see The Spirit? It’s one of those films that’s so hilariously bad that I’m surprised it hasn’t garnered a cult following. Let me know in the comments below.