VOD film review: Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For
Ivan Radford | On 22, Dec 2014Reading time: 4 mins
Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Cast: Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Ray Liotta, Powers Boothe and Lady Gaga
Watch Sin City 2 online in the UK: TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“She owns me. Body and soul.”
That’s Dwight (Josh Brolin) talking about Ava Lord (Eva Green), his former lover who begs him to help her bump off her new bloke. He might as well be talking about the whole of Sin City 2.
The movie marks a staggering double bill for its titular dame, with this sequel arriving hot on the heels of 300: Rise of an Empire. It’s staggering, not because of each movie’s brilliance – they are, it is safe to say, decidedly not brilliant – but because of how Eva elevates herself above them. Both see Green play a man-eater, a role that she slinks into as comfortably as Ava slides out of her near-transparent slips. Ever since Casino Royale, Green’s sheer sexuality on screen has been something the actress has embraced wholeheartedly; when she appears in a film, you’re not surprised that all of her appears in a film.
Is there anyone else more qualified in modern cinema to play a classic femme fatale? As Green spits, seduces and smiles her way through these monochrome streets, you’re hard pressed to think of anyone who could do it better. She doesn’t just milk the part; she sucks it dry, relishing in the bitter reversal of gender roles, as she twists each man to her own end.
But that power seems to extend to the men behind the camera too. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return to direct the sequel, but what was once potent and thrilling now feels limp and worn.
Sin City 2 mostly takes place before the events of the first film, which means that we see a lot of familiar faces played by unfamiliar people. Unfortunately, this re-casting only adds to the sequel’s second-rate air: Brolin is suitably gruff as the violent Dwight, but he’s no Clive Owen, while Dennis Haysbert as menacing butler Manute is woefully miscast compared to the late Michael Clarke Duncan. After years of seeing him as President Palmer in 24, Haysbert’s soft-voiced manner is more likely to induce titters than terror.
The performers who do return fare little better, with Jamie Chung’s Miho – and the other ladies of the night – feeling more like cardboard cut-out sex objects than ever. Even Jessica Alba’s independent, non-stripping stripper Nancy is saddled with a duff revenge sub-plot, which is overshadowed constantly by Bruce Willis’ ghost walking into the room. It’s enough to make you wish Haley Joel Osment would turn up and walk him off set and back into The Sixth Sense.
The dialogue feels equally old-hat, with Brolin reduced to muttering about “not unleashing the monster” and Bruce whispering melancholically at anyone who will listen. Mickey Rourke, meanwhile, is clunky as Marv; the once self-deprecating narrator with a wry sense of irony now shuffles about in his leather coat asking why some young punk called him “Bernie”. The wit has gone. The originality nowhere to be found. It’s as if the self-aware switch of the first movie has been turned off, reducing the tapestry of vice and violence to something that doesn’t quite recognise its own genre cliches. As a result, when Marv does go on a killing spree, it feels wrong rather than justified; awkward rather than enjoyably indulgent.
There are a couple of strands that do work – specifically, the ones involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He walks in as a cocky gambler, aiming to take on the corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at the poker table – a high-stakes showdown that incorporates everything from impressionable waitresses to a dodgy scientist played by none other than Christopher Lloyd. In these performers’ hands, the tale of a boy versus his senior, upstart versus the system, is amusing, intriguing and, at times, exciting.
The rest of the black-and-white haze, though, sinks like a lead penguin. It’s a shame, because Rodriguez and Miller’s direction is unique and beautiful. Even with the underwhelming action sequences – occasionally edited too quickly for us to follow – the hyper-stylised visuals really do like comic book pages bought to life; when people jump through windows, you can almost see the tears. But their most breathtaking creation is the one who saunters through the boring story-lines as if she’s in a Howard Hawks flick. They fetishise her like a Marilyn Monroe Barbie doll, but she somehow escapes Miller’s male-gazing world in tact, leaving the blokes behind the camera drooling on their lens. For better or worse, she owns the film. Body and soul.