Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller  
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence, sexual content, nudity and brief drug use
1 hr. 42 min.

There are some things to like about Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Unfortunately, the stories (and the characters who narrate these stories) are not any of them. The end result is that even as Sin City blazes across the screen with stunning graphics and a couple of good performances, it sometimes feels as if it’s burdened with too much dead weight.

Perhaps it’s because this is the second time around for directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City, and despite all the fire power they have harnessed graphically and with a stellar cast, a story is still a story and if you don’t find a way to make that story interesting, the whole film will suffer.

But it may also be something else. If there’s such a thing as a film trying to do too much, Sin City seems to be a prime example. So in this case, you have five overlapping stories and they’re not all equal in strength. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is a hard-nosed hit man who has a secret obsession with local stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba). Nancy is haunted by the dead spirit of her former lover Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and lies in wait to assassinate the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for killing him. Dwight (Josh Brolin) is a man who is being torn apart by his former girlfriend, the beautiful, deadly and quite married Ava (Eva Green). And Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a cocky gambler out to take down Roark in a high-stakes poker game.

Got all that? Well, you can understand then when I say that you may need an organization chart to keep all this in perspective, and since they don’t hand out charts at the theater, you will spend more than a few moments watching and hoping against hope that they don’t add another strand to make this film even more perplexing.

I said there were some things to like about Sin City, and there are. The graphics are stunning and the sense of artistic daring is carried over from the original. The use of live action and animation make it hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. You know there are actors being filmed, but the film makes them appear and transform into animated and often angry ghosts stuck in a hellish existence with no hope of ever escaping from the purgatory that is Basin City.

Sin City, however, is missing one important element. Humor. Not the rah rah kind. The dark, cutting kind that is intrinsic to the graphic novel, a high-art form of comics meant to stimulate and provoke the eyes and the mind. Someone seems to have overlooked that these characters need to be biting and sarcastic and funny to make them effective.

Some performances in this film are worth noting. Green and Boothe stand out as faces of smiling death, evil personified with a killer body, a smoking cigar and a snide grin. Alba dances and acts provocatively, and Rourke’s deadpan style seems to come naturally to him. In tune with the film’s noir, is he acting or is he just being himself? Knowing Rourke as we do, you really can’t tell.

Sin City seems to be begging to be taken seriously as an artistic form of filmmaking. I don’t know why the directors took this approach. They had already proved it in the first film, or maybe they just wanted to pile on more stuff, too much stuff as it turns out and too many stories to keep track of. There’s a fine line between artistic license and giving the viewer a headache. After watching this billowing concoction, I needed aspirin to clear my thoughts. Frank, Robert:  Enough already. Bring it back for a third try, but next time around, dial it down.