Walk down the right aisle in your local cinema and you can find "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For". The movie is, of course, the sequel to "Sin City". Like the previous movie, it is comprised of multiple stories set in the titular city where you can't walk one foot without stumbling into a plot filled with sex, violence, and the kind of men that are so hard that they can only be penetrated by one thing: a beautiful woman. Both "Sin City" movies are based on a comic book series of the same name. Both movies are also co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and the creator of the original comic book series, Frank Miller. The two movies feature adaptations of multiple stories from the comic books, but in this sequel, there are also a couple tales made specifically for the movie.
The first thing one notices about a "Sin City" movie is surely its visual style. The "Sin City" movies are much like the comics that they spawn from in terms of their style. Essentially, it's a black and white world although color has its way of breaking through at various moments. The amount of color seems to have increased in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", however. This black and white style works very well both in the source material and on the screen. However, the visuals in the "Sin City" series are not without their flaws.
I recently re-watched the original "Sin City" and while I do love its visual style, I will confess that I find some of its effects to already look outdated. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" suffers from the same problem. Basically, any time a car is shown in the movie, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching a cut-scene from a video game. I don't get the impression that the driving scenes in this movie are meant to look realistic, but at the same time, looking at all the very clearly computer generated cars driving around can look a little silly and take one out of the experience of the movie. It's like peering behind the curtain in that it ruins the illusion.
Still, the visual style of "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is overall a success, much like the first movie. One thing that is different about the visuals in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is the fact that it is shot more like a movie than a comic book. The first movie is filled with head-on static shots of various things much like a panel of a comic book would be. In fact, most of the shots in the first movie are lifted straight from the source material. It seems to me that the creators took more liberties with the source material visually in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For". While I do think it is cool that the first movie stuck so close to the comic books, I didn't mind at all that this one went for a slightly more naturally cinematic feel.
The stories here are as one would expect. Truth be told, I have already read all the "Sin City" comic books so I wouldn't have been surprised here too much no matter what the filmmakers did. However, even if you haven't read the source material beforehand, this movie will feel very familiar to anyone who saw the first movie or really any film noir ever made. Basically, there are tough men who are weakened and manipulated by women and who are thrust into plots involving plenty of death. The stories in the "Sin City" series can feel a little repetitious sometimes, admittedly, but the narration, visuals, and cool characters are always so entertaining that it doesn't really matter. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" works in this same way.
The stories that are adapted from the comic books work fairly well in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", but it is really the stories that were made specifically for this movie that most interested me. The new story starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt is definitely my favorite of the whole movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the character he plays fit in so well to this series. The plot of his story, and the depth of his character, may not be the thickest, but what he does have is a whole ton of style. I also felt that this story has an ending that is better than the typical "Sin City" resolution. It relies more on character and enforcing themes than the typical bloodbaths that usually finish these stories.
The other original story in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" didn't work as well for me. This story focuses on the always-present character of Nancy Callahan and her desire for revenge against perhaps the most powerful person in "Sin City". I did enjoy watching her plot play out and particularly liked the appearance of the character of John Hartigan here, but ultimately, the story felt like a let down for me. I think one of the main reasons I found this story to be disappointing is because it comes right after the conclusion of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt story. His story ended so strongly for me and I believe the Nancy story takes that ending and strips it of some of its value and power. It is good to finally see a story from Nancy's perspective, and it makes sense that she would have a desire for revenge, but I just felt that the story was too simple and in a way, almost contradictory, to the story completed just before it.
For the most part though, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is consistent in its entertaining and stylish brand of noir storytelling. There is one thing that isn't consistent in this series, however, and that is the cast. Okay, most of the cast does return to play their characters from the first movie in this one, but their are some notable exceptions. The character of Miho, once played by Devon Aoki, is now played by Jamie Chung, for example. Dwight, once played by Clive Owen, is now played by Josh Brolin. Now, this one actually makes some sense because Dwight is supposed to have a different face for the majority of this story, but in the end, when he Dwight is supposed to look as he does in the first movie, he just looks like Josh Brolin with some make-up on. I'm not sure if it would have been better to have him suddenly be Clive Owen at the end of his story, but at the same time, we know that's what he becomes in the sequel story featured in the previous movie. Plus, yes, the face changes, but what about the voice? Josh Brolin sounds absolutely nothing like Clive Owen in this movie, even when he essentially becomes him.
Yet another change in casting comes in the form of the character Manute, once played by Michael Clarke Duncan and now played by Dennis Haysbert. This change was unfortunately unavoidable because, sadly, Michael Clarke Duncan died before the movie was filmed. I can't criticize the change in this case as I don't see how they would have done it any other way. I only mentioned it because technically it is another casting change.
Mostly though, the cast is back, right down to minor characters like Patricia Vonne as the Zorro cosplayer Dallas. Mickey Rourke is once again here as Marv, Rosario Dawson is back as Gail, and Jessica Alba is back as Nancy. Powers Boothe makes an excellent return as Roarke and Bruce Willis does a good job in his return as well. There are even plenty of welcome new additions like Jeremy Piven and Christopher Lloyd, of which both make good use of smaller roles. Mostly though, things remain the same.
Basically, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is the kind of sequel that doesn't enter into too much new territory. The stories are mostly much the same in tone and plot as those of the first movie. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is also almost a sequel that stands on its own. Well, almost.
Half of the stories in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" take place before the stories of the original movie and half don't. The titular story is actually the original story that featured the Dwight character whereas the original movie featured the sequel story for some reason. I thought that including the sequel story was a mistake in the first movie and this makes me think so even more. I think seeing the sequel story first doesn't give that story its full effect and yet you can't really watch the story in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" first because the rest of the movie doesn't make much sense without seeing the first movie beforehand. So, there's a little frustration in terms of the timeline between the stories.
Overall though, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is just what someone looking for a "Sin City" movie should expect. Maybe that makes it less of a thrill than the first movie which showed us how this world would look on screen for the first time, but that doesn't mean the movie isn't any fun. In fact, I'd say "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is a lot of fun. The cast is a blast to watch, the visuals still have a lot of style, and the stories, while somewhat repetitive, are very entertaining and filled with the best kind of noir narration and dialogue that one would want in a movie such as this. I wouldn't kill for this movie, personally, but I certainly do enjoy watching it.