“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a feast for jaded souls of the Tarantino species. Cartoonishly savage and menacingly sexy, it starts so strong that you don’t want to blink for fear of breaking its shadowy, black-and-white spell, made even more seductive via 3-D that virtually sends curls of cigarette smoke straight up your nostrils.
But Frank Miller, on whose graphic novels this sequel to 2005’s “Sin City” is based, and co-director Robert Rodriguez get so caught up in their orgy of buns, guns and destruction that they forget about connecting dots to create a semblance of a whole.
This time around, the story blends two of Miller’s classics with new scenarios. The denizens of Sin City are a motley bunch with two things in common — depravity and heavy eyeliner. Mickey Rourke is back as beastly faced brawler Marv, as is Powers Boothe as corrupt Sen. Roark, who faces off against Joseph Gordon-Levitt as brash young card shark Johnny (picture that boyish face suddenly looking more like Chet Baker’s in his later years and you get an idea of Sin City’s effect on visitors).
Josh Brolin takes over the role of Dwight (played by Clive Owen in the first film) still besotted by his former lover, Ava Lord. Dennis Haysbert does an amusingly understated turn as Manute, thuggish bodyguard to Ava’s billionaire husband, Damien Lord.
In keeping with the Miller/Rodriguez m.o., the women characters serve mostly as eye-candy props. As grieving stripper Nancy, Jessica Alba has little to do but sullenly gyrate, and the underused Juno Temple can only simper.
Then there’s Eva Green. As the “dame” in question, Ava Lord, Green (best known for playing Bond girl Vesper Lynde opposite Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale”), is a delight to watch every second she’s onscreen. Nude or clothed, she owns whatever room in which she’s bringing men to their knees.
What’s the story? Tough to tell. Time and plot threads ricochet like a flibbertigibbet on crystal meth. A dizzying succession of supporting roles or cameos from stars including Bruce Willis (as the ghost of “Sin City” central character John Hartigan), Rosario Dawson and Christopher Meloni do nothing to clear up the confusion.
Visually hypnotic from beginning to end, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is worth the watch if you expect nothing more than disparate comic-strip frames of action. But nine years in coming, this follow-up ultimately fizzles.