Forty dollars will buy you a back-room doctor who will remove a bullet from your leg in Sin City, but notwith anesthesia.
The average life span of an adult male on screen is about 22 seconds. The only food groups are vodka and whiskey, and yet everyone maintains a hard body. There appear to be two job opportunities if you’re female and live in this world: armed prostitute, and unarmed prostitute who gets rescued by a brooding loner.
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, who collaborated in 2005 on the serialized, stylish and brutally satisfying “Sin City,” should have stopped there. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is still a visual buffet, but adding 102 more minutes of double crosses, slow torture and hookers with hearts of gold just exposes the tediousness of the exercise.
Comic book creator Miller and filmmaker Rodriguez are talented enough in their respective fields to survive the occasional disaster. The new “Sin City” isn’t quite that, but it is, in almost every way, inferior to its predecessor. It’s poorly paced and repetitive. This world is on an endless revenge loop, where the good guy almost never wins, but his demise is noble so we can still sort of feel good.
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By the end it’s clear that every full house will be topped by four of a kind. Every cruel beating will result in stylish scars that double as religious symbolism. And no bad guy will ever shoot a good guy in the head, when five not-quite-lethal shots in the torso will do.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is based on the graphic novel series by Miller. Once again it’s shot in black and white – with splashes of color – that duplicate Miller’s grisly, minimalist, high-contrast visual style. Good detective Hartigan and thuggish hulk Marv (Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke) return, but they haunt the film more than inhabit it; their best story arcs were exhausted in the first film.
Miller wrote two new stories for “Sin City 2,” and the first is the best thing in the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays newcomer Johnny, who tests his good luck by confronting Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the holdover corrupt politician who rules the Sin City underworld. Johnny’s storyline, including a visit to the aforementioned doctor (Christopher Lloyd, perfectly cast), is the only one in “Sin City 2” that has a momentum that matches the first film.
Nine years is a long time, and casual “Sin City” fans may have a hard time picking up the connections between the first and second movie. It doesn’t help that new actors play several returning characters, bearing little resemblance to their predecessors. (Jeremy Piven subbing for Michael Madsen?)
The second new story features Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen as Dwight, who just needs to settle down with Rosario Dawson’s killer prostitute character and move to the suburbs already. Eva Green is completely wrong for Dwight as the manipulative Ava Lord. But she’s the only famous actress in the movie who is willing to get nude, so it’s doubtful Miller or Rodriguez left a single scene on the cutting room floor.
Speaking of poorly veiled misogyny: The bare breasts and everything else in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” are presented in 3-D. After an initial adjustment period – Miller purists may prefer the old version that’s more faithful to the artwork – it’s one of the more dynamic uses of the technology in recent memory. The story may be getting old, but the arterial blood spray still looks pretty great.