Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (3 stars)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's sequel favours style over substance

Nearly a decade after Robert Rodriguez teamed up with graphic novelist Frank Miller to bring Miller’s celebrated Sin City to jaw-dropping life, their follow-up navigates the same schlocky, sweaty path of bloody crime and bloodier retribution.

Like its predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is made up of several intertwining storylines. We are reunited with man mountain Marv (Mickey Rourke), who teams up with Dwight (Josh Brolin) on a foolhardy mission to rescue Dwight's former lover Ava (Eva Green) from the clutches of her sadistic husband. Elsewhere, stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) is reeling from the suicide of her lover John (Bruce Willis) and is determined to take down the man she deems responsible for his death, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). And striding into their midst comes Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cocksure gambler who bites off far more than he can chew.

As with the first film, this is a confident celebration of cinematic craftsmanship. It’s a living, breathing comic book writ large, each frame beautifully realised in a monochromatic palette, interspersed with occasional, vivid colour. These moments of colour (green eyes, red lips, blonde hair) are emotional markers signifying innocence, hope, desire and pain. Blood – and there’s buckets of it – is for the most part white, making the violence and gore palatable, beautiful even. Visually, this is a masterpiece.

Narratively, the film fares less well. Broadly speaking, each of the strands concerns a struggle for power, whether that be physical, sexual, political or emotional. In reality, this is a thematic excuse for a lot of flesh (particularly full-frontal female flesh) and fisticuffs. Sure, the fantastic ensemble cast chew down on their pulpy lines and fling themselves into the action with gusto. But as the camera lingers long on the desperate and the depraved, forcing the audience into the role of complicit voyeur, it’s unmistakably an exercise in style over substance.

Limited release from Fri 22 Aug (London West End), previews from Mon 25 Aug, general release from Fri 29 Aug.

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Trailer 2 - Dimension Films

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 42min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
  • Cast: Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green
  • UK release: 29 August 2014

Marv (Rourke) teams up with Dwight (Brolin) on a mission to rescue Dwight's former lover Ava (Green) from her sadistic husband. Rodriguez and Miller's follow-up to 2005's Sin City is, like its predecessor, a visual masterpiece but in narrative terms it's a schlocky, sweaty exercise in style over substance.