As with the original, A Dame to Kill For is based on the Sin City comic books by Frank Miller, who once again pulls double duty here as writer and co-Director with Robert Rodriguez. Also like the first film, A Dame to Kill For is an anthology of short stories combined to make a full feature. The stories here are part-prequel and part-sequel to Sin City. All of them take place before 2005’s Marv (Mickey Rourke) story, but after Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis). The main story focuses on Dwight (Josh Brolin), who was played post-plastic surgery in Sin City by Clive Owen. Dwight is entangled with Ava (Eva Green), the titular Dame to Kill For. It’s a story of lust, betrayal, and violence. The other two stories center on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny and Jessica Alba’s Nancy, who both have scores to settle with Powers Boothe’s Senator Roark.
The problem is that the stories in Sin City were far more compelling than what we get here. While Sin City was a stylish postmodern film noir, A Dame to Kill For comes across as a tired rip off. It might have struck a stronger chord if it had been released in 2006 or 2007, but nine years after the original was too long to wait. The visuals, while still impressive, are no longer fresh and that’s mainly what Sin City had going for it. Also, Miller’s script is god awful. Film noir can be done very well, but Miller just pumps out the worst elements of the genre and then beats the audience over the head with them. I’m not sure if he was going for self-parody here, but he achieved it regardless—I was constantly laughing at the stupidity of what was happening on the screen. The depths of Miller’s misogyny also know no bounds. Eva Green plays a classic femme fatale—extremely oversexed and hammy, yes, but a femme fatale nonetheless—but every other female character in this film is a sex worker of some kind. Let’s hear it for progress! There were several moments when I looked at Rosario Dawson’s Gail and blurted out, “What is she wearing???” Her outfits are a cross between dominatrix and warrior, you know, as one wears. It’s so ridiculous it makes Miller’s Bruno from The Dark Knight Returns look positively conservative.
In spite of all that, the acting in this thing mostly isn’t bad, it’s just that the dialogue and narration—my god, the endless, boring, overly purple narration—are abysmal. Eva Green is at her sexy best here. She’s naked on the screen more than she’s in clothes, but she makes a good femme fatale. With a better script, she could probably be part of a nice detective film. Rourke is back in the role that re-launched his career and he chews the hell out of it. Gordon-Levitt trades on his charm, but his story is kind of weak. Brolin is also good as Dwight, while Powers Boothe is delightfully evil as Roark. Nice cameos all the way around, including an unrecognizable Stacy Keach. Let’s talk about Jessica Alba for a moment, though. Alba is inarguably one of the most beautiful women in the world—it’s an indisputable fact. Unfortunately, she is also a terrible actress. She definitely has the body to play a stripper, except for the fact that she never takes off her clothes. So I guess that’s why Green has to walk around in her birthday suit all the time to balance out the non-naked stripper. Alba just has never really mastered acting. She’s as wooden and inauthentic here as she was in the Fantastic Four films. Just really, really bad.
Overall, you can skip Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. It’s an unnecessary sequel to a film that looks antiquated in this comic book movie world we live in now. The real draw for Sin City was that “it looked like the comic book.” Now we have the Marvel films that get that aesthetic pretty damn close. Also, Miller’s overly macho, misogynistic world is no longer a novelty, it’s disgusting. Seven or eight years ago this film might have been seen in a different light, but now it’s just laughable.