Fans and newbies alike should enjoy the two old comic stories retold and the two new stories written for this entertaining film sequel. It looks and feels exactly like the first Sin City.
R-rated grayscale is the name of the game, as expected, with more episodes of Frank Millers’s Sin City comics coming to life, in this new consolidation of intertwined short stories. It’s back to Basin City and its infamous Amazonian-like Old Town, for more installments of men who make fatally bad life-choices based on vengeance, lust, pride, sense of honour and the mysterious influence of naked women; one constantly naked woman in particular. Ava Lord is the femme fatale here and she is the center of the saga and gives Sin City 2 the proper rights to be called a neo-noir film.
Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) is the “hero” (as far as Sin City heroes go) and the drama begins when Ava (Eva Green) requests a rendezvous at the famous Kadie’s club. The two have relationship history, so Dwight agrees, and gradually realises that now may be the time to rekindle an old flame. Ava discloses that her new husband, Damien Lord, is a sadistic monster and she pleads for help just before Manute (Dennis Haysbert), her almost immortal bodyguard/henchman/valet, arrives to intervene. Dwight gets all chivalrous, defensive, nosy and then involved. He teams up with an old friend, the friendly giant, Marv (Mickey Rourke). Marv is now the defender of the not-so-young-anymore but still precious Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). The two buddies start up a chain of events that could only end one way; for Manute that means that familiar golden right eyeball. For Dwight his actions mean infuriating the old faithful dominatrix prostitute queen, sort-of-girlfriend; Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the callous Miho, her samurai assassin. For Marv the story becomes a little humorous with his sporadic stoic amnesia. He has his own short story to tell in the gaps. It’s brief but it will make you like him even more and that familiar deep sense of moral to protect the innocent.
The innocent Nancy, in the parallel story, struggles to shake off the memory of her saviour hero, first and only love, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Spiraling down into the bottle she goes nearly insane with an obsession to take out the untouchable Senator Roark – the highest level of the corrupt and the reason John had to take his own life to protect her.
That untouchable senator, in the fourth parallel story, encounters the newcomer to the city; an arrogant, charming, extremely lucky gambler simply named “Johnny” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He is lovable and witty but gets on the wrong side of Roark by beating him in too many hands of poker. Johnny, and his sweet (in-colour) girl, is a faint hint of light in the dark city, but his past comes out with his incendiary attempts to prove a point.
This section with Johnny and the senator is called The Long Bad Night, and is an all-new storyline. If you are a Miller fan you’ll be a little confused because is this world there is already a Johnny, who is lured by a pretty (but twisted) girl called Amy, who convinces him to kill her controlling “Daddy”, but actually it’s just a joy-ride for her. So forget that story and ease into the fresh face of Gordon-Levitt, and a new kind mysterious character broken by the relentless injustice that is Sin City.
Going from the billboards, a face that you would expect to see a lot of is that of Bruce Willis, but he appears in only a few shots as a figment of Nancy’s delusions. This makes sense as this is a new era in the city’s life and he was very dead when we last saw him. So if you are a Willis fan you will feel short-changed, but he remains the sole true iconic hero of the saga, and the central motivator for Nancy’s life and the storyline of the segment entitled “Nancy’s Last Dance”.
A few judgments against the production may be that there are a number of shots where the highlighted colourful characters are really incoherent against the black and white characters in the same frame, which is a bit distracting, but in general the adding of occasional colour, to emphasise importance, is pretty helpful. Some of previous characters from the 2005 film, unfortunately, couldn’t be cast. You will need to recall names over faces if you want to join the first film to this one. Miho, Manute (formerly played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan) and even Dwight are new crewmembers. Also look out for Lady Gaga as “Bertha”.
Back to the insidious femme fatale in her neo-noir black and white prime, Eva Green does a convincing job to allure all good and bad men into her evil schemes. Vengeance, masked as the pursuit of justice, remains the glimpse of redemption that a viewer will need in order to leave the cinema with some kind of closure. You do get the real essence of the tag line “There is no justice without sin”. All in all it is quite entertaining and the grayscale helps to mask the copious amounts of bloodshed, although it does leave you feeling rather pessimistic, a little gross, and tired of looking at Eva Green topless.
This is not the average film, and it does require some appreciation for simile driven, metaphorical and husky narration by the main male characters in a low register voice. It is better than the first film despite not having Tarantino on the books. The stories feel more coherent and characters a little more involved and relatable, and it feels like more of a movie than the first. It is in it’s own genre altogether, and that makes it quite unique and beautiful to watch.