I walk up to the ticket counter and bark my name. He glares at me like he’s considering knocking my teeth in, but they wave me through. They know my rotten face, my always mispronounced name. I walk into the theatre and there’s my seat, just sitting there waiting for me. Reserved, just for me. That’s power, enforced through the barrel of a… well, I guess it’s a pen and a computer keyboard.
So, what do you think? You think I could fit in in Sin City? You think I could play the role of the hard-boiled detective, the tough-guy enforcer, or the reluctant and incredibly violent hero? I’ve been waiting a damn long time (9 years!) for this film to be released, and while I can’t say I was blown away, I sure as hell wasn’t disappointed either.
Much of the original cast has returned, including Mickey Rourke (Marv), Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan), Powers Boothe (Senator Roark), Rosario Dawson (Gail), Jaime King (Goldie and Wendy) and Bruce Willis (John Hartigan). However, some of the characters had to be recast, including Dwight McCarthy (with Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen), Manute (with Dennis Haysbert filling in for Michael Clarke Duncan), and “deadly little Miho” (Jamie Chung steps into Devon Aoki’s shoes). Last but not least, we also get some brand new characters, most notably Joseph Gordon-Levitt as gambling man Johnny and Eva Green as Ava Lord, the titular “Dame to Kill For”.
The first thing to mention is that this movie is filled to the brim with gratuitous violence, gore, and nudity. While the first film was certainly notorious when released for the very same thing, the follow-up certainly surpasses it. This is mostly due to the fact that the first film, while very violent, had (comparatively) little sexuality in it; this film has heaps of it, virtually entirely due to Eva Green, who we see a lot of (pun intended). The content of the film is as relentless and intense as the first film, if not more so. While I generally dislike movies with gratuitous sex and violence, the heavy layer of parody and self-awareness dolloped on by Frank Miller makes the whole thing not only edible but quite tasty.
Sin City broke new grounds by using digital technology to create completely artificial sets and environments, in a successful attempt to replicate the heavily stylized look of the graphic novels. The same technology is on display here, but it is pretty much the same as before; nothing new seems to have been added. In fact, that is something I can say about the film as a whole: it feels just like the first film, whether in plot, visual look, characterization, editing, and music. If not for the fact that they were released 9 years apart and some of the cast is different, you could be forgiven for thinking they made up parts of the same movie.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is not revolutionary. It will not be fondly remembered for breaking new cinematic ground the way its earlier incarnation did. In fact, it will probably not be remembered much at all other than as the follow-up to the first. But, more of the same is not necessarily a bad thing. Under all the series’ digital wizardry and shock-inducing graphic content is a damn good neo-noir action movie. Yeah, the fights are ridiculous and the characters are all noir stereotypes and we know most of the people are going to die at the end. But when I go to Sin City, that is exactly what I expect to see. I want to see Marv casually murder people and Senator Roarke be a scumbag and John Hartigan spout some cheesy noir one-liners. I expect, nay, I desire to see a damned city of dead-end streets and dead-end lives, full of unredeemable villains and only marginally better heroes, full of silvery shadows and nights as dark as the cruel city’s heart. And you know what, that is exactly what I got. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is more of the same, but that also means more car chases, more of the characters I love (or love to hate), and above all, more violence and gore that is so absurd that you can’t help but laugh at it. I got what I came for, no more, no less.
Oh, and by the way, that’s a damn fine coat you’re wearing…