TMN Movie Review: "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: August 22, 2014
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller

The dark, corrupt and often seedy landscape created in "Sin City" in 2005 was like nothing else at the time and was so well received that fans demanded a sequel. Although the interest for a sequel was always there, things just didn't happen until nearly a decade later. Even with nine years gone, director Robert Rodriguez and writer Frank Miller, upon whose graphic novels the film is based, have not lost a step with "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

The film is divided into four parts, one of which is called "A Dame to Kill For." It stars returning character Dwight, who is now played by Josh Brolin, a detective who gets a visit from his ex-wife, Ava (Eva Green), claiming abuse at the hands of her husband. Dwight knows that Ava is manipulative and has a way with the men, yet he finds himself under her spell nonetheless. She asks him to kill her husband, a chore that she could have had her henchman Manute (Dennis Haysbert) do. This can't end any way except badly for Dwight, who really should know better.

"Nancy's Last Dance" brings back another familiar character in Nancy (Jessica Alba), who is mourning the loss of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) after his selfless sacrifice. She begins to have hallucinations of him that get more and more feverish until she finally vows to take revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who is ultimately responsible for Hartigan's death. She could use the help of Marv (Mickey Rourke), but he is busy with his own troubles in the next story, called "Just Another Saturday Night." That story finds Marv having to piece together the fuzzy details of the previous night after he wakes up next to several dead bodies.

The fourth story is "The Long Bad Night," which is a new story created just for the sequel. In it, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gambles the night away but isn't nearly as lucky as he had hoped. Senator Roark orders him beaten over his debt, but this isn't the first bad encounter that Johnny has had with Roark. Johnny vows revenge, but he has to get in line behind Nancy and likely hundreds of others who have been done wrong by that evil politician over the years.

When a sequel takes nearly 10 years to make, there's a chance that an actor may not be able to reprise his role due to scheduling conflicts. When the film has an ensemble cast with a lot of all-star thespians, the chances increase. In the first film, Clive Owen played Dwight, the part taken over by Brolin. Michael Clarke Duncan, who played Manute in "Sin City," died before Rodriguez and Miller could get the sequel made. When actors who did an outstanding job on such a groundbreaking film can't return, their replacements can seem jarring to fans, especially when the reason for the replacement actor is a tragedy like Duncan's death. Thankfully, Haysbert, who has stepped into Duncan's rather large shoes, fills those shoes nicely. The same can be said of Brolin, an actor who seems to get better with time. He always was a good actor, but as his career has progressed, he seems to command the screen much better, and that is obvious from his take on Dwight.

Besides new actors in old roles, the other aspect of "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" that could make or break the film is the introduction of completely new characters and story lines created by Miller and Rodriguez. Gordon-Levitt's Johnny is a new character and not to be confused with the Johnny character in Miller's graphic novels. As is always the case with Gordon-Levitt, he does incredibly well in the role when a lesser actor might have shrunk under the enormous pressure of joining a well-established and beloved cast. Miller and Rodriguez also took the bold move of creating new story lines for existing characters that are not in the graphic novels. Such is the case with Nancy, who is mourning her lover Hartigan so much that it consumes her. Though it may not be a past story in Miller's carefully crafted universe, it is a welcome one that creates tension and drama.

The original "Sin City" was groundbreaking in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that in 2005, not nearly as many graphic novels were being adapted into film as there are today. The biggest reason it was so lauded was the visual effects, which were ahead of their time and earned the film many awards and accolades. Today, those effects are no less stunning. Even without the taut writing and fantastic acting across the board, the visuals in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" alone make it worth the price of admission.