Movie review: For better or worse, “Sin City” return is more of the same

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From the August 21, 2014 edition

The cinematic absence of “Sin City” has apparently not made the heart grow fonder.

The biggest flaw of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” the much-delayed sequel to 2005’s “Sin City,” is how similar it is to its predecessor. And it seems some critics are blasting co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller for some of the exact same reasons they praised them a decade earlier.

The hyper-stylized visualization of Frank Miller’s graphic novels may not seem as edgy now, but the noir-on-methamphetamines look is still pretty damn cool (and unlike anything except the first film).

It seems more are noting the misogyny of a movie where the characters are one-dimensional noir homages — you saw the term “dame” in the title, right? — as though that’s any different from the original. Both have bullets and boobs flying everywhere. Both have caricatures rather than characters.

The real question is whether or not the novelty has worn off. A recent rewatch of “Sin City” reminded me that, yes, it is an exercise is style over substance, but damn if it doesn’t have style in spades. That “Dame” only ups the style ante in small increments may rightly lead you to think that it was not worth the wait.

The familiarly of characters also may breed some contempt. Mickey Rourke’s brooding brute Marv was the revelation of the first film, but he’s back and taken for granted. Jessica Alba’s stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold gets a vengeful makeover that finally puts her damsel in distress in a position of power, but she’s also grinding her way through more stage routines, so it’s hard to find this liberating.

The real power female here is the dame of the title, a classic noir black widow played with gleeful delight — and, more often than not, without clothing — by Eva Green. She makes a stronger debut in the Sin City world than her storyline’s counterpart, played by Josh Brolin.

The tone is almost completely humorless, unless you factor how over-the-top the noir homage gets. Almost every line of dialogue is spoken through gritted teeth. There’s more gravel than you’ll find at a quarry. It’s like the whole movie is spoken in Batman voice.

It’s ridiculous, over-the-top, full of sex and violence and people you wouldn’t want to have a beer with. In other words, it’s more of the same. I can see some disappointment that Miller and Rodriquez didn’t really try anything new, but I can’t see too much disappointment when they deliver something almost as good as the original.

In other words, “Sin City” fans, you should buy the ticket for the return trip.