Much like the original Sin City, A Dame to Kill For is a hyper-stylised, hyper-violent and hyper-macho brute of a film. But while its predecessor was a fresh and modern rejigg of film noir tropes, this sequel lacks the pizzazz and power that lent its forebear such elemental thrills.
In the decade since director Robert Rodriguez and comic book king Frank Miller exploded their innovative visuals onto our screens the cinematic landscape has caught up: the stunning graphic style that made the original so distinctive has been aped so many times (not least by that other Miller adaptation, 300), that this second outing lands with a less of a bang and more of a “been there, done that” thud. Sure it’s as crisp and bloodied as ever, but it’s just not special any more.
This wouldn’t be much of an issue if the plot and narrative had something new and interesting to offer, but it doesn’t. Despite the over the top excesses, the sex and violence all just seems a little boring this time round, with Miller and Rodriguez recycling most of the characters and many plot points from the first film and in the process the gritty thrill has been substantially watered down.
In fairness, the splintered narrative holds together fairly well, splicing together three tales of debauchery, pain and misery – two taken from Millers comic book pages, while a third (‘The Long Bad Night’) is a new addition written especially for the film. Joseph Gorden-Levitt proves to be the freshest (and best) part of this new gambling-gone-wrong plot with Powers Boothe offering great scenery chewing value as primary antagonist Senator Rourk.
Eva Green also tries hard as Ava, the titular dame, a psychotic femme fatale who makes the men around her crumple into heaps on the floor. However, her pivotal role is poorly written and ends up descending into farce with scene after scene of titillating nudity with little of any actual value to say about her as a character. Likewise, the majority of the women in the murky depths of this world are sorely under sold, standing around in skimpy outfits with little or no dialogue while the male characters go about their business around them.
Elsewhere Mickey Rourke and Jessica Alba are fine, reprising their roles from the first film, and, barring a fairly thrilling shoot-em-up finale, not really offering much new to expand their characterisations from what we already know.
Not terrible then, but it is a bit of a let down, an exercise in style with little substance. Fans of the first film and the comic books may find something to like here, especially in ‘The Long Good Night’ segments, but for the most part it’s like a picture that has been photocopied one too many times – you can see where it came from, but you’d probably much prefer the original.