Earlier this year, Eva Green appeared in the combination-prequel-sequel to a smash adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, 300: Rise of an Empire. The first time wasn’t enough for Green, though, as she now returns in a different combination-prequel-sequel to a smash adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. She was the best part of the 300 follow-up, much as she is here, but also just like that pre/sequel, Green’s presence can’t overpower deeper faults within the movie.
The 2005 movie Sin City was a blast of fresh air in the still young sub-genre of (non-superhero) graphic novel adaptations, paving the way for everything from 300 to Watchmen to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. With its blend of live-action, animation, green screens, black-and-white photography, and vibrant splashes of colour, it was like nothing the world had really seen.
The original movie was based not on one graphic novel but three, which is what gave Sin City its Pulp Fictional, three-act structure. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For tells four more stories set in the same night-time playground of Basin City – two of which precede the events in Sin City and two of which take place afterward.
“Just Another Saturday Night” deals with Marv (Mickey Rourke) piecing together his recent actions after finding himself part of a brutal car crash. “The Long, Bad Night” features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hot-shot gambler who winds up the victim of the vicious kingpin Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). “A Dame to Kill For” addresses the past of Dwight (played in the original movie by Clive Owen and here by Josh Brolin), who is lured into a violent battle by the femme fatale Ava (Green). “Nancy’s Last Dance” tells the continued story of stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), struggling to stay sane after losing her father figure, Det. John Hartigan (Bruce Willis).
Rosario Dawson and Jaime King also return for a second go around, joined by a multitude of newcomers including Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Lady Gaga, and Christopher Lloyd. It’s an impressive cast and, unlike in The Expendables 3, everyone plays their parts to perfect pitch and nobody hogs the spotlight – save for Brolin, but in his defence, he is stuck in the weakest of the four tales.
“The Long, Bad Night” is a fascinating story good enough to sustain an entire movie and the other two stories have their moments, but the quarter of the movie devoted to the titular “A Dame to Kill For” is the most exaggerated and hyperkinetically stylized of anything in either Sin City movie. Not only is it rife with continuity errors so glaring every audience member will notice them — “Wait, how can that guy die in the prequel? He’s ALIVE in the second part.” — but the overkill of animated blood and crazy camera angles pummels you into a numbness that won’t leave until the next act starts.
With the exception of that one fourth of the movie, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a more maturely made, shot, and acted movie than Sin City. Unfortunately, too much of it is just not as impressive or memorable as it was in the first movie.
Eva Green can only do so much.