Lots of comic books have successfully made the transition to the big screen, but few have done so while still maintaining the feel of a comic. Shooting in exaggerated black-and-white that is only occasionally punctuated with a spritz of color, director Robert Rodriguez brings life to popular graphic novelist Frank Miller’s work a second time in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” the follow-up to the 2005 film.
With grit, grain and wonderfully illustrative first-person narration like, “Pavement rushes up to give me a big sloppy kiss,” this one is to noir fans what a deep draw on an unfiltered Chesterfield is to a smoker.
There’s never a dull moment in Sin City, as multiple storylines find a way to intersect at Kadie’s Saloon, coincidentally at the moment Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is about to grind on stage. Hers is just one of the returning characters. Here she’s struggling to assassinate Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe), who frequents the place to play high-stakes poker. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wanders into one of those back-room games only to embarrass Roarke. Fun, but not wise.
Mickey Rourke is back as Marv and finds his way into all of the vignettes — most notably the titular one in which Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, replacing Clive Owen) is wrestling with a gentler day-to-day existence until his exquisitely manipulative ex-lover Ava (Eva Green) thrusts herself back into his life.
Just so you know, the R-rating is warranted. Some skin scenes border on gratuitous and Sin City is violent: Bones are crushed, heads roll, and let’s just say you’ll want to “keep an eye out” for one scene in particular. I’ll take that as part of the darker re-imagining of the noir genre, though solid writing and unique cinematic styling put this one in a category of its own.
Much of the casting is inspired and, atypical of an ensemble piece, everyone is given ample room to shine. Booth is always a delicious villain (e.g., Jim Jones in “The Guyana Tragedy” and Curly Bill in “Tombstone”) but Gordon-Levitt especially stands out as the uber lucky devil-may-care gambler. Additional co-stars include Bruce Willis, Christopher Lloyd, Ray Liotta and Rosario Dawson.
All around well done and fun.