In the 300+ DVD reviews I did for IGN/The Digital Bits, I think I gave out fewer than five 10/10 scores. I'm drawing a blank on what they were, but the two I remember were Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which had haters throwing that at me YEARS later - "You gave Sky Captain a 10, so your opinion on [whatever] is meaningless.") and the 2005 collaboration between renegade filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and comic book legend Frank Miller bringing to life the latter's graphic novels, Sin City. An exhilarating take on modern retro noir, it combined live actors with impossible-to-photograph-that-way CGI environments in high contrast black & white which echoed the bold art of Miller's books and the pitch black denizen of Basin City. It looked like nothing seen before and the arch hard-boiled dialog and stories walked the fine line between pastiche and parody. Mickey Rourke's comeback began here as brought Marv to vivid gritty life as his real-life effed-up mug was buried under makeup, but allowed the tender heart of the brute to shine through.
The road to this sequel has been a long one hampered by factors ranging from Miller foolishly believing he could do this movie thing without R.Rod (with the woeful The Spirit being the result) and R.Rod's own loss of focus culminating in the dreadful Machete Kills. Cast members had retired (Devon Aoki) and died (Michael Clark Duncan and Brittany Murphy) and while Angelina Jolie was rumored to be in talks to play the titular (in both senses) dame, that role ultimately went to Eva Green. Finally, 9 long years later we are getting back to the white blood and blacked hearts in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.
A combined prequel/sequel to Sin City it draws both from Miller's existing graphic novels and fresh material penned for the movie, SC:ADTKF hews to the same interlocking episodic structure of the first one, though to less effective result due to the patchwork nature of the material. Whereas the first movie had a time jump between the halves of That Yellow Bastard segment with Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba which book-ended the movie, the three stories generally occupied the same space and time. This time there's a dissonance caused by stuff happening with Mickey Rourke's Marv (who died in the first movie, SPOILER ALERT for 9-year-old movie) and Dwight (this time played by Josh Brolin, pre-transformation into Clive Owen) and the conclusion of Nancy Callahan's (Alba) quest for revenge and the main story block, A Dame To Kill For. (For those trying to keep the timeline straight, The Hard Goodbye, Marv's story, is the last of all stories in both movies though it being the middle of the first. Confused?)
The movie opens with a clunky prologue reintroducing Marv and his warrior's code of justice and it immediately tips that there's rust in the gears of R.Rod/Miller's storytelling. Then Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes center stage as a card sharp with supernatural luck as he cleans out Powers Booth's corrupt Senator Roark (whose son was that yellow bastard) and then seems surprised that it backfires. Nancy's revenge ends the movie and somewhere in there is something involving Ray Liotta that I barely remember and it's all well and good, but everything else pales before the movie's longest and richest segment, the titular story.
This dame to kill for (and get killed for) is played by MVP Eva Green (see above, yeah) and she delivers more nudity than everyone else in BOTH Sin City films combined and has the black widow act down; you believe she's able to lead men to obsessive self-ruin. Between Penny Dreadful and this, Green is having a stellar year both acting and laying on the sexy. (Angelina Jolie was rumored to be wanted for this role and she would've killed it, but Green doesn't make me wish they'd made it 5 years ago with Jolie.)
I loveLOVELURVED the first Sin City, but while sitting in the screening the other night, it just felt lumpy and long; I was surprised it's only 1h 40m because it felt like 2 hours easily. The overheated noir dialog just dragged on and on and it lacked the original's energy; it's not the exhilarating rush the first was. Marv is just a charismatic gorilla this time - cool as usual, but lacking depth. Alba is OK when it counts, which was a pleasant surprise because as beautiful as she is, she's got the thespianic chops of a puppy. I didn't care for Josh Brolin as Dwight; he seemed like a different guy than Clive Owen, not just a different face.
Score: 7/10. Catch a matinee; skip the 3D.