Nearly a decade after "Sin City" leaped from the pages of Frank Miller's comics to the big screen, Miller and codirector Robert Rodriguez are back with another round of ultra-stylized neo-noir intrigue. According to critics, however, what was fresh and daring in 2005 doesn't have the same impact now.
The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey says the biggest sin of "Sin City 2" is "the way its high style is brought low — visually stunning but emotionally vapid, unrelentingly violent, its splendiferous comic book cast mostly squandered." (Said cast includes Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba and Mickey Rourke.)
Sharkey adds, "There is an interesting kernel of a story about beauty, betrayal and brutality inside each of the film's scenarios and a cast that could handle anything thrown at it. But the kernel never pops, and all we're really left with is a whole lot of neo-noir corn."
USA Today's Claudia Puig calls "Dame" a "vapid sequel" that "aims for a film noir sensibility, but too frequently the script simply resorts to anachronistic scenes of Jessica Alba twerking." Although the film is "visually stunning at times," Puig adds, "it's hard to care what happens to anybody, since most of the characters feel like computer-generated versions of themselves, and their stories mingle without purpose. 'Dame' has a dull, episodic feel, with hyperviolent vignettes coming off as choppy rather than knit together in a coherent narrative."
Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times says that "little has changed" since the first "Sin City" movie, "except perhaps that the novelty has worn off." She adds: "Punishingly stylized, 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."
If there's a bright spot, Catsoulis says, it's Green, as the eponymous dame, who proves herself to be "nothing short of a godsend."
L.A. Weekly's Amy Nicholson agrees that Green is the movie's "best special effect," adding that she's "funny, dangerous and wild — everything the film needed to be — and whenever she's not on screen, we feel her absence as though the sun has blinked off."
As for the rest of the film, Nicholson says, "Instead of an emotional roller coaster, it's a mine shaft straight down to the bottom of existence that asks us to enjoy watching the rats tear each other to pieces."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Peter Hartlaub says that after delivering the "stylish and brutally satisfying" first "Sin City" movie in 2005, Miller and Rodriguez "should have stopped there." 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' is still a visual buffet, but adding 102 more minutes of double crosses, slow torture and hookers with hearts of gold just exposes the tediousness of the exercise."
Among the more positive reviews is that of the San Jose Mercury News' Randy Myers, who says "Dame" lacks a killer finale but is "an otherwise gripping neo-noir."
Myers adds, "While 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' does have its problems, technical achievements are not one of them .... For those who like their fiction hard-boiled like a rock and naughty to the bone, expect to be pleased, if not thoroughly satisfied."