There’s only so much pulp you can ingest before it starts to get stuck in your teeth, and that’s the takeaway from Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Robert Rodriguez and graphic novelist Miller’s sequel to their hit black-and-white-but-sorta-color CG noir from 2005. For all the watermelon-like smashing of noggins and copious nudity (with a particularly odd choice of rendering males genital-less), the overall effect is less titillating than numbing. That more or less puts Dame on par with its predecessor, even if the narrative focus is as blurry as the film’s resolution when you remove your 3-D glasses. (The 3-D, by the way, is at least warranted and not half bad.) Revenge is the order of the day here, with a slick card shark (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, recalling his teen gumshoe in Brick) attempting to swindle ruthless politico Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), while the now-hardened, boozy exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba), looks to settle the score that forced her beloved protector (Bruce Willis, cameoing as a ghost) to take his life in order to preserve hers.
Any movie whose cast includes two dozen famous actors has to coast on those thesps’ abilities, and that proves to be the case here—though, disappointingly, Alba, Rosario Dawson, and the Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, share about 15 lines of dialogue. Mickey Rourke is back as biker brute Marv and Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen’s tortured ladies’ man Dwight. With their low-rumble vocal stylings, they were born for this type of flick. The filmmakers wisely hired the fearless, magnetic Eva Green to play—what else?—the delectably twisted femme fatale Ava, who offers up most of the aforementioned copious nudity. Reminiscent of Linda Fiorentino’s classic turn in the seedy suspenser The Last Seduction, and far more resourceful than the movie she’s in, Green’s Ava more than lives up to this picture’s subtitle. C+