It has been nearly a decade since Robert Rodriguez’s visually groundbreaking, hyper-stylized, pop-noir graced the silver screen. 2005’s “Sin City” was a notorious cult hit and gained a wide commercial success during its box office run. The same cannot be said for the uninspired follow-up, which is very likely to swing a hatchet into the groin of the franchise. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” bombed its opening weekend. It dropped to the 8th spot and only earned $6.5 million, a long fall from the 2005 film’s $29.1 million opening. Along with lead director Rodriguez, the comic’s author and creator, Frank Miller, made his return to stand in on production and co-direct. “A Dame to Kill For” was blessed with the same creative team that struck gold so many years ago. So what went wrong?
“A Dame to Kill For” includes three new stories. The main story is a near panel-for-panel translation of the comic that features actress Eva Green as a seductive and deadly femme fatale whose manipulative charm oversees the hearts of multiple men. Two more stories are newly written by Miller himself, and these stories simultaneously act as both a prequel and a sequel to the original film. Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an overly confident gambler, treads along the threat of death after challenging Power’s Booth, Basin Cities’ all-powerful and corrupt senator, at a game of poker. Nancy (Jessica Alba) returns to the stage, psychologically broken this go-around after learning the fate of her former protector John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). She later teams up with everyone’s favorite rampageous brute, Marv (Mickey Rourke), to likewise see an end to Senator Powers Booth.
But here is where “A Dame to Kill For” misfires: it simply does not perform like fans would have hoped. It is not terrible by any stretch, but the magic of the first film is glaringly absent. It also concluded with one of the most anti-climatic, unearned endings (if you can call it that) I have ever seen. As someone who never read Frank Miller’s comic series, the new stories are quite poor, among the least interesting is the film’s own title story, which is strange considering it is one of the only stories adapted for the screen that was not newly written by Miller. “A Dame to Kill For” is very much what “Quantum of Solace” was to “Casino Royal.”
Then there is Eva Green, and she is certainly not shy. It is becoming more and more rare to see her clothed in a film nowadays, but it is not just throwaway nudity. Under Rodriguez’s stunning visual canvas, Green is displayed as nothing short of a goddess. “Sin City,” at its core, has always been an all-in-good-fun, innocent natured, exploitation flick, but that does not discredit Green’s efforts to use her body as an art form. She looks beautiful. Her performance is not anything to write home about, but she definitely shines a great deal more than her co-stars. It is a shame the movie around her only manages to be merely acceptable.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill,” for what it is worth, is a pretty mediocre film, but maybe audiences should be grateful considering how awful it was expected to be. Just be happy it is not as poor as Frank Miller’s 2008 cringe-worthy camp-fest, “The Spirit.” It is a dull, one-noted return that lacks the compelling charm of its predecessor, although fans of the 2005 film who are perhaps a bit more forgiving will get more enjoyment out of it than I did. If you are still asking yourself if “A Dame to Kill For” is worth dying for, worth killing for, or worth going to hell for, the answer is simple… It is worth waiting on home video for.
Rob Gabe is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.