Released back in 2005, the original Sin City was a nifty synthesis of movie and graphic novel from two specialists in their respective fields: artist Frank Miller and director Robert Rodriguez.
This sequel is too much of a good thing. If the first one was a fascinating noir fever dream, the sequel is a full-on case of delirium tremens, with a coherent narrative sacrificed to the bitch goddess of Miller's visual imagination.
The first film was a relatively straightforward translation of three of Miller's Sin City books. The sequel dares to weave a few narrative threads more intricately, but the effort feels sloppy, and some threads hang egregiously loose.
Mickey Rourke's noble brute Marv returns in the most logistically impossible story continuation, teaming up with Jessica Alba's stripper character Nancy for a vengeful reckoning with the all-powerful, all-corrupt Sen. Roark (Powers Boothe). (Bruce Willis returns here too, albeit briefly, as the ghost of Nancy's protector, Det. Hartigan.)
Rocking the glower, Josh Brolin takes over the role of hoodlum/gumshoe Dwight (played by Clive Owen in the first movie), enticed by an old flame, the seductive Ava (Eva Green) to intercede in her marriage to a perverse millionaire.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings his compact, upstart energy to bear as Johnny, a peppery gambler intent on beating the aforementioned Sen. Roark at the poker table, since he can't be beat anywhere else.
A couple of characters betray this movie's inspiration. Marv is the granite-carved killing machine who thinks with his fists: He's a kind of extreme version of pulp fiction's most violent hero, henchman-throttling P.I. Mike Hammer. And Green's Ava would seem to be vying for the title of the most fatale femme ever, a fiendishly conniving seductress with a penchant for frequent, eye-popping nudity. (In this department, Green, as adorably shameless as she was in 300: Rise of an Empire, seems to be compensating for Alba's nudity-resistant stripper.)
With a choice of noir geniuses to emulate -- say, Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett -- Miller and Rodriguez here declare their allegiance to Mickey Spillane, the dumbest, crudest practitioner of pulp fiction.
Rodriguez and Miller undoubtedly know how to manufacture some arresting images using green-screen technology and selective colouring within the film's black-and-white palette. Both Ava's and Sen. Roark's eyes literally glow with malevolence, and, as in the last film, the appalling violence is somewhat muted by the fact characters can bleed white.
Nevertheless, the sheer tawdriness of this sequel becomes off-putting. If the first film allowed for a naughty skinny-dip in Miller's fatalistic realm, the second has you soaking in it, leading to the panicky sensation you may never be clean again.