Review: ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Lacks in Style and Story

Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForDimension Films via Everett Collection

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For really values its volume. The movie tosses out three or four stories, twenty-odd characters, a handful of car chases, several dozen throat-slittings and skull-bludgeonings… in their return to the cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Miller and director Robert Rodriguez seemed bent on packing in as much as they conceivably could. The unfortunate result: not quite the intricate, inviting narrative web that the men set out to create, but a straight through-line of nonstop stuff.

In the most egregious sense, too. While we remember Sin City as a relatively patient illustration of Miller’s virtue-deficient neo-noir kingdom, what we find in this year’s follow-up is a feverish race to expose the audience to every idea the directing duo has up its sleeve.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForDimension Films via Everett Collection

So, what we get instead of a fluid story is a whirlpool of events. Each chapter of the clumsily manufactured movie will set you up with a character — an out-of-place Joseph Gordon-Levitt as cocky gambler Johnny, Josh Brolin as a thickheaded do-gooder, and the ragtag team of a destitute Jessica Alba and her devoted muscle Mickey Rourke — only to watch the hero in question stumble upon plot contrivance after plot contrivance, never getting to do much all the while.

And while the style outdoes the substance in the scope A Dame to Kill For’s strong suits, Miller and Rodriguez are not exactly displaying the utmost aesthetic panache in this latest outing. Sure, certain chase scenes are kinetic — and the film might offer the most invigorating visual design of an onscreen hot tub in the history of cinema — but sloppy choreography and a world constructed without depth or sense of place leaves us feeling completely out of touch with the film’s most important character: Sin City.