Sequels are always a delicate thing. On the one hand, everyone wants to see more of a good movie (e.g. The Godfather: Part II and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle), but on the other, a part of you knows that you're likely to be somehow dissatisfied with the result. Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to 2005's (was it really all those years ago?) Sin City, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, follows the same formula and features the same aesthetic, and yet, it seems to be lacking the same magic.
Who is the dame to kill for, you may be wondering? Why Eva Green, of course. In the role of Ava Lord, a real Circe type, Green makes the most of showing off her body with what essentially amounts to non-stop nudity. After awhile, you stop even noticing those two nipples staring right at you. The film, in fact, centers mostly around her story line, as she reels Dwight back in to supposedly save her from her evil husband. With the sick minds of Rodriguez and writer Frank Miller joining together again, one would have hoped for some even more sadistic shit, but the sequel is decidedly short on disgusting and repulsive imagery (not counting Joseph Gordon-Levitt's fingers getting rearranged). More than that, Clive Owen is noticeably missing in the role of Dwight. Are we really just supposed to go along with Josh Brolin as his replacement? I don't fucking think so.
Among other plotlines, Marv (Mickey Rourke) returns to start fights whenever possible, as beating the shit out of people is his primary passion in life. Plus, what else is there to do in Sin City if you're not bashing someone's face in out of frustration? Joining forces with Dwight and Nancy (Jessica Alba, also reprising her role) at different points in the story, Marv seems to serve more as the muscle in the script rather than someone with a worthwhile personal journey of his own (guess they gave that to him enough in the first film). The character of Johnny, however (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), presents one of the most intriguing tales and gets one of the more minimal amounts of screen time. As the bastard child of Senator Roarke (Powers Booth), Johnny has a gift for gambling that he uses against Roarke in a private poker game. Winning the game ends up costing him a few good limbs--and one good dame.
Though Johnny isn't the only new character introduced into the mix, the other ones, like Joey (Ray Liotta) and Sally (Juno Temple) or Mort (Christopher Maloney) and Bob (Jeremy Piven), have such marginal, brief vignettes within the larger picture that there's nothing really compelling about watching them. Even a cameo from Lady Gaga, which should be, if nothing else, mildly entertaining, errs on the side of dull and inane.
While the pacing of Sin City 2 is definitely slower than its predecessor, it still feels like it has the high-octane energy you would find from a Quentin Tarantino movie--but it simply doesn't have the conviction. Whether it's because too much time has passed since the first one or it just doesn't have the charisma that Clive Owen brings to every film, Sin City 2 fails to achieve the same level of awe-inspiring reverence. Yeah, it's good and yeah there's still tits and violence galore--which is what we demand from Rodriguez and in general--but that's really about all you can say about it.