Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill for wastes no time getting into the grit and grime of a black and white comic book crime drama; after almost 9 years since the first film there is no time to waste. Marv (Mickey Rourke) can’t remember what happened. This is not surprising with his “condition” and dedication to drinking right out of the bottle. He returns to his local saloon to see his favorite exotic dancer, Nancy (Jessica Alba). It isn’t that he particularly likes watching her perform, but he likes to make sure she is protected after the death of her cop love, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) returns to Sin City with a score to settle against the man who did his mother wrong, Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Roark is still reeling over the death of his son, that “Yellow Bastard” from the first film. Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) is doing his best to keep the demons inside at bay, but when an old flame named Ava (Eva Green) walks back into his life, all bets are off. With her wild claims of a husband that abuses her, Dwight is powerless to stop himself from going after the woman he loves; whether or not she is pure poison. After twists, a broken body and help from the infamous Old Town Madame, Gail (Rosario Dawson) and his samurai sword wielding associate the Deadly Little Miho (Jamie Cheung), Dwight finds himself changing his mission from rescue to revenge.
With so many famous actors involved in the film, it feels like Richard Rodriguez and Frank Miller had a great deal of favors to call in. Christopher Meloni (of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit fame) plays a special victim himself as cop named Mort. Jeremy Piven plays his partner, Bob. Lady Gaga makes a cameo as a waitress in a greasy diner in Sin City. Ava’s bodyguard and worshiper, Manute, is portrayed by Dennis Hasybert who is best known for his work in Allstate Insurance commercials. It was nearly impossible not to wonder if Ava was “in good hands” every time he spoke.
As is expected with a Sin City film, violence and nudity take center stage. The violence is comically visceral and intentionally so. Marv delights in pulling out eyeballs and when Nancy takes a blade to her own face, the audience can’t help but cringe audibly. Joseph Gorden Levitt having his fingers broken using a pair of pliers, it was hard not to look away. People are shot at close range and it becomes tempting to tally how many times characters are shot in the head or beheaded. After her work in Sin City and Penny Dreadful, I’m personally starting to wonder if every Eva Green project comes with a contract that demands full frontal nudity and someone calling her a “witch” at least once.
While the first few encounters we have with women in the film are weak and laughable at best, an obvious wave of strength crops up from the women towards the end of the film. Women who refuse to fight back quickly wither and die. In the beginning, Marcie (Julia Garner) speaks with a quiet voice and no real spine. This leads to her inevitable downfall. Things begin to change when see a young call girl named Sally (Juno Temple) almost blown away by her lover (Ray Liotta). Instead, Dwight steps in and Sally quickly drops her helpless little girl act and goes right back to Old Town, where her true power is. And then we have the Dame everyone is ready to kill for. Eva Green’s nudity is not only beautiful, it expresses her ridiculous power over all the men in her life. Whether it is conning a rich man into marrying her, trying to spread her reach of power through a well-placed marriage proposal, or even just duping Dwight or Manute into her every whim, Green is deliciously evil. She knows her power, and though she uses it for evil, she actually uses it. Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Gail is strong, even when she shows her weakness for
Dwight. She fights hard and knows who truly has the power on the streets of Old Town. Cops fear her and her staff listens to her, even when they do not agree. Miho is always at the ready for her leader and has a quiet strength that shows itself with every slice of her samurai sword. Nancy begins the film powerless, spending her time at the gun range and loading up on liquor. She shambles on stage, barely able to stand as she dances. It’s heartbreaking and hard to watch. As the film progresses, her heartbreak turns to rage. Nancy chops off her hair and carves up her own face, manipulating Marv the protector into going with her to take down the man responsible for Hartigan’s death. From blonde wig to black leather with a crossbow, Nancy lets the viewer know that Ava isn’t the only dame to kill for.
Despite cringe-worthy broken bones and unapologetic violence, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is great fun to watch. Visually stunning, the film hearkens back to the days of film noir while still keeping the look and feel of the very identifiable comic book. This is not a film for sensitive viewers or children.