The cartoonish mayhem in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For aims for a film noir sensibility, but too frequently the script simply resorts to anachronistic scenes of Jessica Alba twerking.
This vapid sequel to 2005's Sin City follows the previous collaboration of co-directors Robert Rodriguez and comic-book writer/graphic-novelist Frank Miller. Based on Miller's works, Dame (** out four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) is as hard-boiled, gory, garish and violent as the original. Bullets spray and blood splatters early and often.
But it's hard to care what happens to anybody, since most of the characters feel like computer-generated versions of themselves, and their stories mingle without purpose.Dame has a dull, episodic feel, with hyperviolent vignettes coming off as choppy rather than knit together in a coherent narrative.
Visually stunning at times, the black-and-white film, occasionally splashed with vivid color, is slickly composed. But the all-star cast spends a lot of time reciting Raymond Chandler-style voice-over narration in sonorous baritones.
With his prosthetic nose, protruding brow and jutting jaw, Mickey Rourke's Marv looks and acts like a buffoon. An avenging-angel ruffian, Marv opens the film tearing after some frat boys as they savagely beat a wino.
His dialogue is delivered in a guttural growl, similar to what comes out of the mouths of private investigator Dwight (Josh Brolin) and gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Each of the guys also tangles with malicious Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Heads roll, eyeballs pop and rage is the order of the day.
Sin City newcomer Eva Green is the film's strongest asset. She plays Ava, the diabolical and seductive title character. Often in various states of undress, bright-emerald eyes blazing, Green is the only one who wholeheartedly seizes upon the humor in the material. She seems to be enjoying the farcical role more than her co-star in noir glamor, Nancy (Alba), a haunted exotic dancer relegated to repetitive gyrations punctuated by hearty swigs of booze.
When Nancy gets really upset, she takes a pair of scissors to her hair, chops with abandon and threatens to go crazy with grief over the loss of her beloved John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). In Sin City, dames can't be trusted, and guys can't control the monsters within.
Along for the nihilistic ride are Stacy Keach as a crime lord in a blobby mask that makes him looks like Jabba the Hutt; Jeremy Piven and Christopher Meloni as hard-boiled cops; Rosario Dawson as a tough gal with a soft spot for Dwight; andChristopher Lloyd playing a version of his Back to the Future mad scientist. It's good to see Dennis Haysbert take a break from his Allstate ads to play Manute, a superhuman brute.
Some of the performances are so short and slight they feel like cameos, competing with classic cars and dark alleys for screen time. A brief appearance by Lady Gaga — looking a lot more ordinary than usual — is indeed a cameo.
If viewers don't expect much from the wan drama and gimmicky story, they might be distracted by the striking visuals. But the hard-boiled denizens of Sin City are generally a monochromatic blur.