** and 1/2 out of ****
This sequel to 2005's Sin City isn't bad. In fact, it is fairly entertaining to a point, but it just doesn't have the same exuberant mix of action, sleaze and gore that punctuates the original. It's more of the same here – several interlocking tales of double-crosses and revenge done in an over-the-top neo-noir style. Again, it's directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Til l Dawn, Machete Kills) and Frank Miller, and based on Miller's graphic novels.
In this collection of stories, we get a lucky gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tangling with a very crooked senator (Powers Boothe looking like the Devil), a photographer-for-hire (Josh Brolin) getting involved with a luscious femme fatale (Eva Green, often naked), and a stripper (Jessica Alba returning as Nancy from the first film) obsessed with revenge. Mickey Rourke's Marv character also returns, even though he dies in the first film, but this time around he has disappointingly little to do. It almost seems that Miller and Rodriguez felt obligated to include him because he is a fan favorite but forgot to give him a worthy storyline. His actions here are actually repetitive. He is relegated to helping out a character break into a guarded mansion, not once but twice.
The centerpiece story is the Eva Green/Josh Brolin Double Indemnity ripoff, and plot points are sometimes moved through so quickly that it's ineffectual. There is no genuine emotion here. It all feels of artificiality.
The best part about A Dame to Kill For is its stunning look. The stark black and white imagery, with splashes of color here and there, is simply hypnotic. And it looks absolutely thrilling in 3D. It's just too bad that the stories aren't that engaging. However, there are enough spurts of action to jolt you awake when the movie starts to become sluggish. In the end, though, this is an exercise in style, and that only takes it so far.