Once again co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” the visually striking follow-up to the 2005 hit, gets even more eyeball-popping the second time around — literally, sure, but also because this time it’s in 3D.
Acting as both a sequel or prequel depending on the story, the second “Sin City” follows a handful of storylines (some old, some created for the movie), all connected by that trademark heavily-stylized ultra-violence and the town’s sleazy saloon/strip club. There’s a typical Saturday night for Marv (Mickey Rourke), Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his ill-fated buy-in at a high-stakes backroom poker game, Dwight (now played by Josh Brolin) returning to both Old Town and the clutches of Ava Lord (Eva Green), and Jessica Alba’s Nancy attempting to avenge the death of Bruce Willis’ Hartigan.
So, as you might expect, a dame is far from the only reason to take a life in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Here’s an unofficial ranking of all the various things the denizens of Miller’s hard-boiled metropolis are willing to kill (or die) for in the long-awaited follow-up.
10. Money: Probably the least compelling reason in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” this one covers the grunts and hired goons, and signals a serious lack of ambition. It also basically guarantees they’ll get no more than 3-5 seconds of screen time before they’re gone in a flash of black-and-white blood spray. On the plus side, some get to keep their heads attached to their bodies.
9. Self-preservation: Not surprisingly, this doesn’t work out too well either. Say what you will about the movie’s relentlessly gritty world view, but Rodriguez and Miller seem to have a healthy sense of irony.
8. Upper-class entitlement: Whether it’s a gang of rich kids lighting winos on fire or the return of Powers Boothe’s villainous Senator Roark, Sin City’s wealthy treats the town’s slums like their very own homicidal playground as a matter of birthright.
7. Community service: “A Dame to Kill For” takes audiences on another trip to scenic Old Town, the type of place where arrows, knives and nooses show up on command. There, Rosario Dawson’s Gail and the rest of her team do their civic duty by cleaning up the streets.
6. Loyalty: There’s a fine line between being used and being a good friend in “A Dame to Kill For,” but it’s a lot more dangerous to go it alone in Sin City (see: Gordon-Levitt’s storyline). For the most part, that basically means asking Marv to help do your dirty work, which gives the fan favourite tough guy a bigger role in the follow-up, along with a much higher body count. And Rourke makes the most of both.
5. Fun: See above. Because nobody has a better time in “A Dame to Kill For” than the square-jawed brawler, who starts looking for a fight whenever he gets bored — which is pretty much once every 15 minutes. And considering the majority of the rest of the movie is spent watching anti-heroes like Brolin’s Dwight and Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny stoically take a beating, it’s a lot more fun when Marv shows up for the audience, too.
4. As an excuse to chew scenery: The newcomers have the best time in this department, especially Gordon-Levitt and Green, who deliver the cheesy dialogue without an ounce of winking camp.
3. Revenge: If revenge is best served cold, then the nine years in between the first “Sin City” and “A Dame to Kill For” definitely ought to do the trick, which is probably why Rodriguez and Miller include a scene essentially recapping for audiences why Alba’s Nancy has it out for the sleazy Senator. That clunky exposition dump aside, Nancy’s got hands-down the most compelling arc of the movie, going from helpless victim to a crossbow-wielding maniac. Nancy’s not the only one out for payback in “A Dame to Kill For,” but she’s the one you’ll root for most.
2. Eva Green: Any good hard-boiled noir is only as good as its femme fatale, and Rodriguez and Miller found the perfect one in Green, who plays the title dame to kill for, Ava Lord. Green spends probably 90 percent of the movie only covered by shadows (or nothing at all), but it’s rarely gratuitous. Instead, some meta voiceover points out that her near-constant nudity serves an important purpose: making sure that any man within a ten-mile radius is willing to do whatever she says, which — no surprises here — mostly involves a whole lot of murdering.
1. Because it looks cool: More than anything, the main reason to kill in “Sin City” isn’t for Green’s Lord, it’s in the service of satisfying viewer bloodlust for more of the franchise’s trademark over-the-top blood and guts. That means more decapitations per second than another one of Miller’s long-delayed follow-ups to come out in 2014, “300: Rise of an Empire,” all of them in glorious 3D. It’s why henchmen don’t just get indiscriminately mowed down, they get CGI arrows lodged into their heads first. None of it’s quite as thrilling or groundbreaking these days, but equal parts grit and cartoonish ultra-violence, there’s only one true reason for someone to kill in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”: because it’s exactly what the fans are paying for.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is now playing in theatres.