Two chapters from Frank Miller’s graphic novels are woven into a feature-length film by the addition of two new stories in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.”
Miller’s misanthropic view includes women cast as prostitutes and strippers or outfitted in an assortment of bondage getups. Is there anyone to like? In the event we believe some character possesses redeeming qualities, Miller cripples them with hackneyed dialog echoing 1940s B-movies. Temptress Ava Lord (Eva Green) excepted, we are told but rarely shown the characters’ motives taking them, and us, to dark places.
In the “Sin City” world, “protagonist” is a relative term for those with crosses to bear and scores to settle.
Co-directing with Robert Rodriguez, Miller pulls off several cutesy tricks. Splashes of color accent the eyes or lips of certain femme fatales. Otherwise the characters are filmed in deeply saturated blacks and whites, imitating a cheap comic. Another artifice morphs the live action into a cartoon drawing to depict extreme violence. Crashing vehicles, severed heads, spurting blood and other forms of mutilation become cartoon objects unworthy of reflection.
My favorite character from chapter one returns for this sequel. He is Marv, portrayed by Mickey Rourke wearing a cube-head prosthetic. Constantly itching for a fight, Marv readily signs up to help an acquaintance on a suicidal rescue mission. A guy who digs rolling with and dishing out the punches, Marv’s gusto frees viewers to enjoy his brawls.
Miller inflicts injuries on his more righteous guy or gal characters to externalize their inner pain. Take the case of dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba). She saws off her long tresses then slices her pretty face with a shard of jagged glass. The black-and-white-stitched gashes are her war paint.
In a parallel storyline, gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sets out to beat power-mongering Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at the senator’s corrupt high-stakes poker game. Along the way Johnny picks up Marcie (Julia Garner) a moll who’s the only technicolor character, flashing peachy skin and strawberry-blonde locks. She and Johnny fall prey to belief in happy endings.
In yet another storyline, Josh Brolin shows up as Dwight McCarthy, a possible love interest for Ava Lord, who enlists him as her knight in shining armor. Hair cropped close to his scalp, military-style, Dwight worries about losing control and “letting the monster out,” but he is no different than the other characters who follow their basest instincts, unconcerned about the results in what ought to be called “Sin City: Kill ‘Em and Kill ‘Em Some More.”