“There’s no reason to leave anyone alive. No one’s innocent.” This sentiment, expressed matter-of-factly by the hulking urban golem “Marv” (Mickey Rourke), comes pretty close to encapsulating the narrative philosophy of the Sin City movies. In the first, released in 2005, two of the three chief protagonists were dead by the rolling of the credits. In the new installment, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For—well, let’s just say that once again not all the endings are happy ones.
The films, directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (who wrote the graphic novels on which they’re based), are an exercise in going noirer than noir, in achieving a state of darkness so absolute that it could be, to borrow a phrase, none more black. It’s not a terribly profound ambition, but it’s one that offers its pleasures.
Like its predecessor, A Dame to Kill For is based on a few lightly entangled tales from Miller’s Sin City canon, this time with a couple of new stories thrown in. Some of the plotlines take place before the other film and some after, lending the movie an enjoyably elastic quality as simultaneous sequel and prequel. The dynamic signature visuals—high-contrast black and white, with occasional splashes of decadent color—are back, and the cast is again first-rate. Indeed, there are a handful of ways in which A Dame to Kill For actually improves on the first movie. Alas, none are enough to prevent the film from being a substantial disappointment.