A picture is worth a thousand words, and visual storytelling doesn’t get too much better than “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”. The only issue is that the film can’t rely on its' visuals alone. The plot makes this second installment inferior to the first.
There are three main stories throughout the film that are connected with a thin thread in a huge man named Marv (Mickey Rourke). Marv is a sadistic character who one look at his face tells you he’s been through plenty of battles, and doesn’t mind taking on the next one. This makes Marv the perfect muscle for Dwight (Josh Brolin), who after being enchanted by former flame and femme fatale Ava Lord (Eva Green) to kill her husband for her, is in need of a little payback. This story is the most developed of the three and also has the most violence and misogyny throughout. Where Marv and Dwight let their fists or weapons do the talking for them, Eva Green spends half of her screen time topless or naked and uses her body as a weapon. It’s this dichotomy of men being cavemen and women being conquests or eye candy that makes the movie fall short of imitating classic film noir. Where it wins on the film noir style, it fails miserably in class.
The second story which gets far too little time is that of Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cocky gambler who is looking to take on the city’s crime boss Roark (Powers Boothe). Levitt has the swag and handsome face that’s perfect for a role like this. It’s unfortunate that he gets just enough screen time for you to remember the character, but wish there was more. In fact, the abrupt ending to the storyline caused a gasp in the theater.
The final story is scraps left for the dog. It follows stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), distraught from the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), and trying to work the nerve to pull the trigger on Roark to avenge John. This story is a lot like Nancy, sloppy and all over the place. Once again Alba dances as a random plot point, not pushing the story forward, until directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez decide it’s time to wrap the movie up.
Sin City is a one note town that’s fueled by men’s needs to solve problems with uber-violence, a stiff drink, and a hot dame. Miller and Rodriguez understand and nail the power of the aesthetics that can be seen in a single frame. The story and plot to this sequel may have needed to go back to the drawing board though.