"Sin City" is back in all its lurid, gory glory, a vivid and visceral graphic novel come to life in the capable hands of Robert Rodriguez and co-director and comic book creator Frank Miller.
If anything, it's a more gorgeous experiment in green screen digital sets and black and white videography, complete with selective splashes of color - a green-eyed femme fatale's lips here, a bloodied thug's ugly mug there. The neon-and-shadows cityscape is stunning, with gorgeous nudes and startling plunges underwater.
But the characters in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" are mostly the same, the situations basically a rehash of the bullets, blood and beatdowns of the first film. And the hard-bitten dialogue is jokier and softer, lacking the sucker punch prose of the original.
A couple of characters we saw die in "Sin City" are back - Marv, the avenging angel thug played by Mickey Rourke, with-prosthetic jaw, brow and nose, and the last good cop, Hartigan, played by a fatalistic Bruce Willis. Prominent newcomers are Eva Green, showing off her Bond Babe bod in her birthday suit, luring men to their doom - Josh Brolin and Dennis Haysbert as two of those men - and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an unfortunately lucky gambler. Powers Boothe plays a crooked senator the gambler crosses.
Stacy Keach shows up in a full Jabba the Hutt blob mask; Juno Temple and Jaime King are fresh women of the night; Christopher Lloyd's a demented mob doctor; Jeremy Piven and Christopher Meloni are ineffectual cops; and Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson return as bustier-and-fishnet clad tough broads with a stripper touch.
And private eye Dwight (Brolin) is spying on the likes of Ray Liotta and Temple, who plays his paramour. "She glides out of her coat like it was Christmas wrapping."
Rodriguez, who shot this and shares directing credit with Miller, films "A Dame to Kill For" in extreme close-ups, through lingering digital clouds of cigarette smoke, staging stylistically fake classic car chases - a Tucker Torpedo, a tail finned Caddy.
The violence is grisly - impalings and beheadings and eye-pluckings. And the sex is explicit. Women take a back seat in these movies, though Alba's stripper bent on revenge gets to narrate part of it. Dawson and Green are the ones who're frightening enough to hold their own with the tough guys.
"A Dame to Kill For" isn't the shock to the system "Sin City" was, but whatever its plot repetition and warmed-over tough talk cost it, this is still a movie like few others you've ever seen, a 3D slice of nihilistic noir that will have you narrating your own guts and guns story on the drive home, chewing on a toothpick as you do.