'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For': What the Critics Are Saying

5:30 AM PST 08/22/2014 by Ashley Lee

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's crime drama stars Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke and others

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, out on Friday, once again pieces together several intertwining stories from Frank Miller’s graphic novel series Sin City, nearly a decade after the original film blew away big screens with its critically acclaimed color processing technique. Miller and Robert Rodriguez's second neo-noir action-thriller stars Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Lady Gaga, Rosario Dawson, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven and Julia Garner, among others.

Dimension Films and The Weinstein Co. are releasing the R-rated sequel, which is produced by Rodriguez's Quick Draw Productions, Aldamisa, AR Films, Miramax and Solipsist, in 2,894 locations this weekend. It is expected to earn around $15 million in its North American debut, behind teen tearjerker If I Stay.

Read what top critics are saying about Sin City: A Dame to Kill For:

The Hollywood Reporter's chief film critic Todd McCarthy says, "It's more of the same, really," except for "Green's killer embodiment of the titular dame, ... Ava, a spider woman so fatally gorgeous and seductive that no man can resist her. ... Pulp and noir were often built on the beautiful shoulders of such characters as Ava, and the main justification for seeing the film is to watch Eva Green claim membership in the pantheon of film noir leading ladies alongside Jane Greer, Gloria Grahame, Marie Windsor, Peggy Cummings, Lizabeth Scott and a few others. Frequently baring all in a way that was not allowed in the '40s and '50s and often lit by Rodriguez (who did triple duty as director, DP and editor here) in a high-contrast style accentuated by slatted light through blinds, Green more than earns femme fatale immortality."

Of the franchise's pioneering visual effects, "Rodriguez continues as before, using the technology to drench the sordid doings in the black-and-white of '40s and '50s film noir, with modernist slashes of bold colors — primarily blues, greens, yellows and especially reds — accentuating the violence and the allure of the women." Yet "the big problem here is the sameness of the material throughout, the one-note tone. Every scene is given the same weight — there's no modulation, no sense of drama beyond mannered posturing, a feeling that the whole enterprise is about capturing a retro look and attitude and nothing else. The lack of any substance at all is what makes the Sin City franchise feel cheap, in the end."

The New York Times' Jeannette Catsoulis calls out the use of 3D as "not just unnecessary but counterproductive; the original film’s digital images already delivered impressive depth and density. Without any visible benefit (other than the usual projectiles that hurtle periodically toward our reflexively ducking heads), this new dimensional tweak serves only to scramble scale." While Clive Owen's absence is "keenly felt," she echoes that Green is "nothing short of a godsend. ... Ava’s nakedness is her weapon, and Ms. Green, playing entire scenes in the buff (she’s one of the few actors who understands the complicated grammar of body language) somehow makes us feel as though we’re the ones being exploited." Altogether, "this marriage of comic-book panels and hard-boiled dialogue has a heaviness that can’t be explained solely by its cynicism or lack of wit. It’s a blunt instrument whose visual shadings far surpass the kill-or-be-killed storytelling."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips notes that the sequel, "with its crazed, revenge-fueled antiheroes and female body parts disguised as the gender formerly known as women," aims to "honor a tradition, a style — in this instance film noir, which is less a genre than a justifiably paranoid state of mind — while reducing its storytelling elements to the crudest possible level." Though only praising the use of 3D in the poker game sequences, it's overshadowed by all the slashing. "if Rodriguez had any selectivity as an action director and a purveyor of garish thrills, the violence might have an impact beyond benumbing the spectator. Sin City 2 keeps piling on, flipping the visual pages and selling the same ancient lessons in misogyny that real noir, or neo-noir, exploited yet transcended."

The Boston Globe's Tom Russo writes that, "as usual with Sin City, much of the vibe is about echoing genre touchstones, while the look isn’t quite like anything else the digital age has seen." Beyond the Dwight-Ava storyline, "the other stories range from pretty good to not good at all. ... You could cruise into Sin City late and clear out after Brolin and Gordon-Levitt take their bows and not miss a thing."

San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub compares it to the original as inferior — "a visual buffet, but adding 102 more minutes of double crosses, slow torture and hookers with hearts of gold." After nine years, "casual Sin City fans might have a hard time picking up the connections between the first and second movie," but altogether, "the story may be getting old, but the arterial blood spray still looks pretty great."

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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