It took almost eight years for a sequel to Frank Miller’s “300” to hit theaters. Then when “300: Rise of an Empire” finally came out five months ago, it quickly became clear that this sequel never needed to exist in the fist place. The best characters were all dead, the most interesting part of the story had been told, and there was really nothing left to do but throw the same flashy visuals at the audience. It’s taken even longer for Miller and Robert Rodriguez to get a sequel to 2005’s “Sin City” off the ground. Unlike “300: Rise of an Empire,” however, there’s still more than enough character, story, atmosphere to warrant another visit to Sin City.
The original “Sin City” was one of the most visually distinctive, gloriously violent, and flat out fun action pictures of the past decade, literally bringing Miller’s striking neo-noir comic to life. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is pretty much guaranteed to entertain anybody who was a fan of that film. It’s still not as fresh or funny as the original. How could it possibly be? The film does deliver exactly what one would want out of a “Sin City” sequel, though. Stunning black and white cinematography, sharp dialog that walks a fine line between being over the top and laughable, ridiculous hard-R violence, classy nudity, and Mickey Rourke.
Like the first film, “A Dame to Kill For” mainly consists of three intertwining tales, two of which were written exclusively for this movie. The most engaging story of the bunch stars Josh Brolin, taking over for Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy. He’s been attempting to leave his former life of sin behind, but gets sucked back in by his ex-lover Ava (Eva Green). She’s a seductive little vixen who is being terrorized by her billionaire husband and needs Dwight to take her away. As the classic film noir plot thickens, Dwight finds that there’s a greater scheme cooking up behind the scenes. While Owen is missed, Brolin is a natural choice to step into Dwight’s antihero shoes. Green, who was easily the best part of “300: Rise of an Empire,” was tailor-made for this material and always knows just how much of the scenery to chew up.
Our second tale introduces Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, a cocky gambler who comes to Sin City to score big while also settling a personal score. He sets his eyes on Senator Roark, played by Powers Boothe who has based his entire career on playing corrupt politicians. Johnny isn’t the only one with a grudge against Roark. Jessica Alba returns in what’s still the best role of her career as Nancy, a stripper who never actually gets completely naked. Although to be fair, Eva Green more than compensates for that. Nancy is gunning for revenge after the death of Bruce Willis’ Hartigan in the last film and won’t rest until Roark has a bullet in his head. The problem is that she just can’t quite bring herself to pull the trigger.
Not every storyline in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” has a magnificent payoff. There’s a particular subplot involving two cops played by Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven that could have been cut out altogether. Yet, it’s easy to let this slide because all these characters are just so darn interesting to listen to. You could listen to one of them monologue about picking out furniture from IKEA and it would be awesome. Like any good noir story, “Sin City” is all about characters and it has more than enough to go around.
Throughout the various stories, fan favorites like Jamie Chung’s Miho, Rosario Dawson’s Gail, and Jamie King’s Wendy/Goldie all drop by. The standout is still Mickey Rourke as Marv, an unstoppable human tank with nothing to lose. Although he got the electric chair in the last film, “A Dame to Kill For” takes place before Marv’s “The Hard Goodbye.” Good thing as one movie wasn’t enough to contain Marv, who plays an active part in every chapter here. This is the role that rebooted Rourke’s acting career, making leeway for him to land parts in movies like “The Wrestler.” He’s reason enough to keep coming back to “Sin City” for seconds and maybe even thirds somewhere down the line. Actually, if they ever make another “300” movie, Marv would be the ideal candidate to lead the Spartans to victory. Crossover, anyone?
• Ahwatukee native and Arizona State University graduate Nick Spake has been working as a film critic for nine years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com.