You may know this about me if you follow me on Twitter or read me on other websites, but I’m Franchise Fred. I love sequels and truly believe every story should continue indefinitely. No matter how resolved a story is, if characters had one adventure, they’d surely have more in their lives and it’s up the storytellers to make sure they’re all great stories. Yet, by the time there was finally a Sin City sequel, I’d completely forgotten what would have made me excited about a Sin City sequel. I remember it was a cool movie, a stylish take on a green screen movie that was appropriate to the world, rather than a cheap substitute for actual world building. Yet I never revisited it in the past nine years.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For reminds me what Robert Rodriguez is capable of. This is really what cinema should be about, not turning fantasy into reality but rather creating worlds that cannot exist in reality. Sin City is not just a comic book brought to life. It’s a world where light and color play by different rules, where gravity may or may not work, and where being cool is the primary motivator for any behavior. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For exudes cool in every frame.
There are still three distinct stories in A Dame to Kill For, but I felt they wove together more organically as one ensemble than the first film. Not that there’s anything wrong with an anthology, but this approach works and gives the world of Sin City a more epic, living, breathing feel. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is always around even though he doesn’t really spring into action until Nancy (Jessica Alba) needs his help. It’s really Marv’s movie in that we discover Sin City through the eyes of its toughest resident. We learn how Dwight (James Brolin) became Clive Owen, sort of. I barely remembered that that was Owen’s character in the first movie but he plays a traditional sap to a femme fatale (Eva Green, of course). Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) comes to town to settle an old score.
Hartigan (Bruce Willis) seems like an afterthought just to get Willis in the credits somehow. It might all be outtake footage of him from the first movie repurposed into this in post. A number of other recasts are seamless. I had to look up that Miho (Jamie Chung) was Devon Aoki in the first film. Manute (Dennis Haysbert) carries on Michael Clarke Duncan’s legacy well. There is no Shellie (Brittany Murphy) character.
All of the Sin City characters take a beating, and they don’t seem to mind as long as they look cool doing it. While there’s no story as crazy as “The Hard Goodbye” (Marv’s Story from Sin City 1), they all exemplify hallmarks of film noir as executed through the prism of Sin City. At just about 100 minutes, the lean pace feels more energetic too.
The actors may all be on a green soundstage but their interactions with the world and each other are more comprehensive. The green screen work in the Machete movies and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World is lazy and breaks the flow of the film, but A Dame to Kill For shows that it can be used to create worlds, not just paste different actors together.
The 3D gives it an interesting look too, because it still looks 2D in a certain way. Characters are leaping from plane to plane as backgrounds still consist of simple shapes and straight lines. Yet enough comes towards the camera to remind you that it is dimensional. My favorite was when Johnny deals cards right out of the screen.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For made me want to revisit the first film, which is one of the greatest effects of a good sequel. Doing so only reinforced what a leap forward A Dame to Kill For was. The first movie had a cool look and the Marv story was great, but A Dame to Kill For is so much surer with its look and touches of color, even the subtler stories crackle.