Momentum is a funny thing. When graphic novelist Frank Miller first teamed up with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in 2005, the result was Sin City. Filmed mostly on green screen, it was a dark, dirty neo-noir delight. Fit to burst with swooning dames, femme fatales and bad ass guys. Critically and commercially it was a success. And it felt fresh.
What I’m getting at here is that it’s taken almost ten years to bring us the sequel. In general, Hollywood rarely lets this happen. If they’ve got a good thing going, they keep it going. However, Rodriguez operates somewhat apart from the Hollywood machine and, as such, it’s taken nigh on a decade for the pieces to fall into place and for Sin City 2 to hit the big screen.
The question is, did they lose momentum? Is it possible to recapture the gritty feel of the original? Will Miller and Rodriguez strike noir gold again? The answer, typically, is yes and no. Momentum has been lost, there’s no denying it. Had this film come out 2 or 3 years after the first one we’d probably feel rather differently. It might be looked on more favourably.
The problem is that, since the release of the first film it’s taken on a bit of a cult status. A status which has grown with each passing year. Perhaps this second film will take on a similar status, but I rather doubt it.
As per the first film, A Dame To Kill For is divided into three stories. The main story – and film’s title – focuses on Dwight McCarthy (played by Clive Owen in the first film and Josh Brolin here) and his love-hate relationship with the ultimate femme fatale, Ava Lord (Eva Green).
Angelina Jolie was originally meant to be the dame, but it didn’t work out. Perhaps for the best as Green was born to play Ava Lord. She’s pretty much been doing this sort of role most of her career anyway – and it’s not a stretch to picture her as a woman that can drive guys crazy. Seduction incarnate indeed.
Brolin does well picking up the mantle from Clive Owen. His Dwight perhaps more animalistic, less measured and more of a brute. I’m not sure he fits into Miller’s world as well as Owen did, but that’s a minor point.
The second story – newly written by Miller for the film – follows Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a cocky gambler on a revenge tale of sorts. He fitted well into this world as a character and Gordon-Levitt’s performance was convincing. You’d almost wish he’d somehow featured in the first film as I’d have liked to have seen more of him.
The final story picks up after events of the first film and follows everyone’s favourite stripper, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). When the only man she ever loved (Hartigan, played by Bruce Willis) took his own life, Nancy fell to pieces and vowed revenge on the man responsible, corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe on fine, evil form).
For those characters that continued from the first film, Nancy has changed the most and it’s nice to see Alba have more of a role to sink her teeth into. Although in some ways it’s sad as her character was really the only pure soul in the first tale and, in this story, Basin City has finallly gotten to her. She played the part well though.
As a film, this doesn’t have the impact of the original from a storytelling point of view. The three stories don’t overlap as well as the original, nor are they as emotionally affecting. That said, as a sequel it’s a good addition and should have been made. The other characters returning – particularly Mickey Rourke’s Marv – feel like they’ve not been away at all and the actors looked like they were having a ball.
In general it’s been worth the wait. It won’t grab you as much as the original but it’s a worthy effort. Two is plenty though Mr Miller and Mr Rodriguez, we don’t need a trilogy.