It has been almost a decade since Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” roared into theaters. It was a fresh, gripping, eye-popping spin on film noir faithfully translated from the pages of Frank Miller’s pulpy graphic novels. Today it remains one of the best experiences I’ve had in a movie theater. Recapturing the freshness and blood-tinged magic of the first feature may seem a daunting task, but in the hands of Rodriguez, Miller (acting again as producer), and a cast comprised of new and familiar faces, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a grade-A thrill ride from beginning to end.
The world once again does not disappoint. It’s a town of hard-edged heroes, outrageously corrupt officials, dangerous dames, and deranged drifters. The monochromatic landscape is only broken up by flashes of color, usually bold reds and searing blues and greens. The soundtrack is comprised of low thumping beats and a persistent dirty saxophone that hangs over a place free of any sense of period. Sin City is a dark dream world for all time and I want to live in it.
The cast is a kaleidoscope of stars. All of the performances pack a punch, but notable standouts include Eva Green as Ava Lord aka the “dame to kill for” in the title. She brings an erotic magnetism to a role that could have easily dissolved into a bland caricature. Treacherous and tragic, she is utterly spellbinding.
Jessica Alba returning as Nancy Callahan gives the best performance of her career. I’ve never found her to be particularly gifted outside of her beauty, but for the first time I actually feel as if she is giving us a little more than eye-candy. Her anger, mourning, and resentment is palpable here. Even her dance sequences have added depth.
I also enjoyed the ever-reliable Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hotshot hustler, Powers Booth expansion of Rourke’s evil, and of course, Mickey Rourke as Marv, who remains the best character in the show. Also notable are a series of excellent cameos ranging from Ray Liotta to Lady Gaga.
That “A Dame to Kill” for is being considered a flop is a damn shame. American audiences have been seemingly conditioned to respond to a particular format of blockbuster filmmaking that is growing increasingly tired and repetitive. What Rodriguez and company have served up is a rare treat: a late summer tentpole movie that packs equal amounts of star power, style, and genuine artistry. Don’t miss it!