John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

Sin City: A Dame to Die For

Genre: Thriller

Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

Cast: Jessica Alba, Powers Booth, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: August 22nd, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a film that is easier to appreciate than it is to enjoy.

It’s a celebration of brilliant visuals and a style of filmmaking that would be hard to duplicate for other directors. Directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have defiantly returned for this long-awaited sequel to the 2005 original. Like its predecessor, information pills some of the stories here are culled directly from the Frank Miller graphic novels.

This sequel opens with the ultra-confident Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), pill a smooth-talking ladies man who is the king of the poker table. “A city’s like a woman or a casino,” he notes in a voice-over, “someone’s gonna win and it’s gonna be me.” Johnny wanders into a game with the notorious Senator Roark (Powers Booth) believing that the consequences of the game— win or lose— will remain at the table. They never do in movies like this and Johnny faces the brutality of Roark’s wrath when he wins big.

“Power is a fragile thing. It tolerates no threat,” Roark says— a sentiment that takes center stage during Roark’s reign of terror (a reign that has continued since his actions in the earlier film). Returning here also is Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan, a young woman still fractured from the events of the original who longs for revenge against Roark.

In the main storyline, Eva Green plays the seductive Ava, a woman torn between two worlds who is trying to return to the arms of the naïve Dwight (Josh Brolin, replacing Clive Owen here), a private investigator sent to prove a husband’s disloyalty to his wife. Ava is trying to leave her current lover behind but of course, there’s trouble at home for her which leads to Dwight’s doorstep. Eventually, Dwight is forced to confront Ava’s boyfriend and his clan of violent psychopaths but like in any pulpy stories like this, there are a few abrupt surprises and betrayals that will keep audiences intrigued.

Like in the original, this sequel is packed with well-known performers and even a few great cameos that offer up some delightful performances along the way. From Ray Liotta’s cheating husband to Jeremy Piven’s classless police officer to Christopher Lloyd’s wonderful turn as a cranky doctor, the cameos add to the fun and charm of this otherwise dark tale and each of the actors involved seems to be cherishing their time here. So too, it should be noted, is Gordon-Levitt who deserves a fully character than the one he is offered at the beginning and the end of the picture.

The story does fade a bit in the middle with the longest storyline being the most meandering one but it easily rebounds with the directors’ visual acumen and the direction that should keep viewers engaged when the plot does not. Like its predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For appeals to a distinct audience that will appreciate the visual techniques here and the pulpy and direct dialogue.

The squeamish should steer clear because much of the violence displayed is brutal and vicious but if you’re willing to wander into the dark parlor of Sin City, you likely won’t be disappointed by this sequel.

Review by: John Hanlon