“Get out of my life, once and for all,” says private investigator Dwight (Josh Brolin) to Ava (Eva Green). “You’re everything I’ve ever wanted,” she says. But Dwight says, “It’s over.” It isn’t, of course, not for Dwight and Ava — or any of the dozen or more gritty characters who live (and die) in writer/cartoonist/co-director Frank Miller’s Sin City. Based on his graphic novels, “Sin City: A Dame to Die For” is a sequel/prequel to “Sin City” (2005) in which Clive Owen played Dwight.
Does exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) have revenge on corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Booth)? What does Ava really want? Will Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) humiliate Roark at his own game? Can you take 102 minutes of non-stop mayhem? I couldn’t, but I stayed to the end, including credits. It’s my job.
As title character Ava, Eva Green has the strongest part. She’s sexy, tough, determined, and enigmatic — sometimes a “goddess,” sometimes a “predator,” according to denizens of Sin City who come under her spell. Green owns the scenes she’s in. Josh Brolin and Mickey Rourke are P.I. Dwight and self-appointed avenger Marv, unlikely partners who agree to save Ava from her (she says) abusive husband Damien Lord (Marton Csokas). In a second story line, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is gambler Johnny, determined to win the pot at his nemesis Senator Roark’s poker table. Both Gordon-Leavitt and Powers Booth — as Roark — play one-note characters who have no back story or motivation.
Others in the large cast include Jessica Alba as stripper Nancy, who may (or may not) succeed in killing Roark, and Rosario Dawson as gun-toting Gail, still carrying a torch for Dwight. Dennis Haysbert is brutish Manute. Watch for Bruce Willis (Hartigan), Ray Liotta (Joey), and Christopher Lloyd (Kroenig) in cameos. Lady Gaga has a walk-on as Bertha.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a relentlessly violent anthology of crime stories that, sometimes, overlap but mostly don’t, but always feature appalling brutality and cartoon gore. Watching it made my stomach hurt. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez co-directed from Miller’s script and graphic novels. On the plus side (there’s only one) is the film’s striking black-and-white visuals, remarkable cinematic re-creations of Miller’s noirish graphic-novel art. (I did not see the 3D version; even in 2D, the art is extraordinary.) If not for its gut-wrenching, unrelenting violence, bad pulp-fiction narration, and cartoonish characterizations — especially of women — I might watch “Dame” again for its art.
Rated R for pervasive violence, sex, nudity, smoking, and drugs, the film runs (a long) 102 minutes. As Gordon-Leavitt’s character says, “This has turned into a long, bad night.”
“A Dame to Kill For” is
Striking on the screen,
With non-stop mayhem
I wish I hadn’t seen.