Lady Gaga’s cameo isn’t anything to get too excited by.
Otherwise, Sin City does exactly what you’d expect Sin City to do: its shadowy part film noir, part comic book monochrome is shot with dashes of colour (usually to denote sex or emotion) and looks just as stunning as it did almost a decade ago. The tone is heightened by bursts of heavily orchestrated violence, elegant narration and a sinister jazzy score. Its inhabitants are malevolently compelling: see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s swift-dealin’ Johnny or Eva Green’s über-vamp Ava.
The problem is that no matter how good a film looks, it’s still dependent on its story. Stuck on two interchangeable levels of intensity (violent, or carrying the imminent potential for violence), the single facet of each character’s sleazy motivations (sex, revenge, power) doesn’t provide much to root for or care about.
Josh Brolin’s Dwight is enamoured by Ava? Obviously. Everyone hates crooked Senator Roark? Makes sense. Barely a moment passes without the kill count shooting up like a busted thermometer or without flesh exposed like a rerun of Basic Instinct on a black and white TV – but violence and sex usually provokes something more substantial than indifference.
The cinematic equivalent of a grunge band forgetting that the mellow part of their quiet/loud dynamic is vital, Sin City betrays its noir routes by repeatedly going for the jugular. Since the release of the original film, the atmospherically similar Drive redefined the balance of beauty and brutally with a stronger sense of both style and mood, leaving a relatively new franchise floundering in the face of stronger competition. It doesn’t help here that each character’s poetic voiceovers often clash with their brutally uninspiring dialogue.
Wondrous for the senses but dull for the mind, Sin City only just about delivers base level excitement.