You get an idea of just how ridiculous Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For is from its opening sequence. The action kicks off with Marv (the hulking brute from the first film who’s basically indestructible) punishing a group of frat boys who make the very bad mistake of shooting him after he tries to stop them setting fire to a homeless man. There are all sorts of violence and some confusing (and fairly irrelevant) dialogue, and everything’s done in that I-don’t-really-know-what’s-happening-but-the-effects-are-so-good-I-don’t-care kind of way that’s the perfect introduction to the film as a whole.
The only problem is, as things progress and you grow more immune to the gorgeous visuals and slick action, you start to wake up to the fact that the storyline (or storylines – as with the original, the sequel involves multiple interwoven narratives) is actually a bit weak. It’s the usual mix of hard blokes with gravelly voices going up against nasty, corrupt villains (usually, as the title suggests, in an effort to help beautiful women they’re obsessed with), and in that sense Sin City 2 isn’t really that different from the original. Sure, it’s fast-paced and entertaining enough; compared to the first film it’s more visually impressive (it certainly looks great in 3D, with the stylised, graphic novel action coming to life in a way that’s almost mesmerising at times) and often it’s more amusing. But it’s also more ridiculous and more clichéd, and the multiple narratives don’t fit together nearly half as well.
The characters don’t feel as fun or as interesting this time round either. Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both play their roles well, but the figures they portray are too similar to the film’s other protagonists to really stand out. They’re all just variations on the same broody, neo-noir stereotype, with little to distinguish them from one another. The villains of the film are a bit more memorable (Eva Green is brilliant as the hyper-sexy, hyper-manipulative Ava, and Powers Boothe is nicely intimidating as the corrupt Senator Roark), but they’re still not nearly as unpleasant as Elijah Wood’s cannibalistic Kevin, or the paedophilic yellow goblin portrayed by Nick Stahl in the original.
To be fair, Sin City 2 was never going to have an easy time of it. The first film was a very tough act to follow and, although the sequel does up the stakes in some ways, it just doesn’t quite come together in others. The original found the perfect balance of self-awareness, humour, explosive action and dark crime; Sin City 2 still has all those elements, but the balance is out of whack and the different pieces – like a mildly frustrating jigsaw puzzle – don’t quite seem to fit.