Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

(Netflix Streaming, April 2015)  It’s been nine years since the original Sin City, and that’s frankly too long in-between installments.  I’m older, wiser and less likely to tolerate the kind of juvenile attitude in which overdone noir can indulge.  It really doesn’t help that A Dame to Kill For seems delighted in showcasing brutes and corrupting whatever innocence had escaped the first film intact: Despite toned-down violence (well, ignoring the mid-movie thirty-second marathon of decapitations accompanied by grotesque audible sploshes), it feels like an even more pointless film than the original.  It’s not all bad, especially if you can get yourself in a mood receptive to noir style and overdone dialogue: the special effects are well done (albeit inconsistently used), the quasi-parodic script is good for a few laughs and anyone wanting a little bit more of that first film’s style is likely to enjoy it.  Director Robert Rodriguez may be repeating himself (it’s about time he directs a film that’s not part of a series), but he’s doing so stylishly.  Mickey Rourke seems to have fun playing the brute once again, while Joseph Gordon-Lewitt and Eva Green (in a typical performance, as seductive as she seems insane) are welcome addition to the cast.  Plenty of smaller roles are given to big-name actors, leading to a sustained game of spot-the-celebrity.  Still, what curdles A Dame to Kill For is the ugly script, which not only has pacing issues but (unlike the original) forgoes the protection of innocence in favor of revenge, revenge and some more revenge: Jessica Alba’s character is corrupted to the point of destruction, more than one sympathetic characters are killed to set up the never-ending avenging and the effect is far more nihilistic than healthy, even for a noir film. (And that’s not even mentioning the troubling glorification of Rourke’s character as an invulnerable killer.) For all of the polish of the film’s style, it doesn’t work if its ideals and plot points leave a sour taste.  It’s not a good sign that of the film’s interlocked stories, the worst two are the ones especially written for the sequel.  I would still watch A Dame to Kill For again (someday, not any time soon) just to enjoy the visuals and the atmosphere, but I would be wary of recommending it to anyone else, and I sure wish the script had been more upbeat and less self-satisfied by its own pointlessness. 

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