CinemaFanatic’s review published on Letterboxd:
While Robert Rodriguez is mostly know these days for making plenty of kids films like the Spy Kid movies, he had also done his own fair share of ultra-violent fare. His most significant work to come from these films was 2005's Sin City, which is an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels of the same name. Shot in black and white and done in a narrative structure similar to Pulp Fiction (different stories not told in chronological order), Sin City was visually brilliant, a lot of fun and it felt like a comic book coming to life on the big screen. However, along with the slavish looks, it is marked by brilliant performances from its cast and stories that dealt with revenge and morality. It left a large impact on the comic book genre that the only other film that matched its brilliance was The Dark Knight.
The movie was a box office success and went on to become a cult classic. Seeing how Hollywood works and there were still plenty of stories in the comics to tell on the big screen, a sequel was likely. While it entered development soon after the release of the original, for many reasons along the way like recasting, it kept getting put on hold. It wasn't until late 2012 that the film actually went into production.
However, after nine years, Sin City isn't quite so fresh in most peoples' minds anymore. While its style still holds up today, it has been done in other films like 300, The Spirit and Watchmen. While some might be put off by the long wait for release, this follow-up will likely please fans of the original. But like with 300: Rise of an Empire, this isn't a movie for the mainstream audiences. This is a movie that was made for its fanbase, and in that sense A Dame to Kill For delivers.
There are four different stories told in different time spans. The prologue starts with tough-guy-with-a-heart Marv (Mickey Rourke) who has a run-in with a few crooks and seeks to bring his brand of justice on them, which is told early on. Next up is Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an overconfident gambler who wants to beat the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at his own game. However, his actions lead to disaster for him. Then we come to Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), who reunites with his former lover, Ava Lord (Eva Green), who is seeking help from him. But it turns out she has a darker agenda. The last story deals with Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) seeking to get revenge on Roark for the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis).
Like its predecessor, this isn't a movie for mainstream audiences, and that's not just because of the fanbase. While the comic book superhero adaptations this year were mostly fine for older kids to watch, A Dame to Kill For is for adult audiences. Being given an R-rating, it contains plenty of nudity (mostly from Eva Green) and bloody violence. Which I was actually happy for. Sin City was always meant to be R-rated fare, and it would have been really disheartening if it had been PG-13-ized.
This film is very similar to its predecessor, though it doesn't leave an impact like it did. There was no way that it was going to be able to do that, but it stays true to it. Two of the stories here were from the comics (the opening scenes with Marv and the A Dame to Kill For storyline) while the other two (Johnny and Nancy) are original stories made for this film. The former stories are very fun and engaging. While the original stories have their moments, the ending to Johnny's story was anti-climatic. But Nancy's story does nicely tying up loose ends.
On a visual level, its about as impressive as the first. The special effects are neatly threaded into its environment and it doesn't feel fake. There is plenty of action to go around, some which involve shoot-outs and trying to get into a mansion against tons of guards.
With a few exceptions, the cast does pretty well here. The returning cast are in fine form. Mickey Rourke is still quite brilliant as Marv as he plays the muscle man and has some good one-liners. Jessica Alba may not be that great of an actress, but her performance in Sin City was fine. Same thing here, in which her character takes a darker turn as she seeks revenge. Bruce Willis isn't given a lot to do besides being an apparition. Powers Boothe, who left quite an impression in the first film despite limited screen time, seems to really relish his role as the nasty Senator Roark.
There are plenty of re-castings along with some good newcomers. Josh Brolin, who plays Dwight before getting plastic surgery on his face (referenced in the first film), does really well playing a tortured man. Manute and Miho have been recast with Dennis Haysbert and Jamie Chung. Both were for understandable reasons, as Michael Clarke Duncan died two years ago and Devon Aoki's pregnancy at the time. Dennis doesn't look like Duncan, but he manages to sound much like him in the role. Jamie Chung doesn't get any lines but makes up for it with her skills with swords. The one recast I didn't like was Jeremy Piven as Bob, though he isn't given a lot to do here.
The two newcomers, Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are both quite good. Eva Green plays her role much like Artemisia in the 300 sequel, she's appears to be a woman in need of help, but in reality is a vicious female that hurts anyone not smart enough to see her for what she really is. Levitt does really well playing a smug gambler and there was an interesting revelation about his character.
If you're a fan of the original film, then you will most likely enjoy this. It has a lot of the qualities that made its predecessor such a great film, but it isn't without its flaws and it lacks some really memorable moments. But then again, it was going to be hard to capture the same impact.