There are not many messages in Sin City, regardless of which of the movies you pick. The message is the medium. These are Frank Miller graphic novels, and it is the graphics that drive them. The imagery is the message. The plots, while they have their own wonderful twists, are as much a rehash of countless other plots. Cliché made art by artwork.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a unique frame to the original Sin City movie. It is, all at once a prequel, a sequel, and a parallel story. Sin City is just a place. It characters can be used and reused, die and yet tell another story. Most of the characters in the original movie appear again, sometimes involved in the same story line prior to the first movie, or after, and sometimes in entirely new story lines.
The acting is good. This is a stylized universe. The acting requires a style of its own, and everyone walks that line. A Dame to Kill For was directed by Frank Miller, the graphic novelist / artist himself. As with the earlier Sin City, the cinematography is very much a graphic novel in motion. But there are moments where I feel that Mr. Miller had not yet fully realized the difference between film and graphic frames. An edit in film is not just two frames next to each other. An edit can display a moment or month in time, or a shift in perspective, or yield some larger aspect of the world surrounding what is seen on the screen. At a few moments Mr. Miller seems to be unaware of this, thinking more in graphic frames rather than filmic grammar. That said, overall the direction is good, and the editing is well done.
The score supports the storylines. It is hard to speak to the effects. The entire movie is one effect. As I said, in this case the message is the medium. The 3D plays well in this mostly Kodalith, high contrast black and white framework. In Sin City, color is an exclamation point.
The plot of the original Sin City was more gripping to me. I said that these films are the act of turning cliché into art with artwork. There are moments in A Dame to Kill For when the cliché is just cliché. Neither the image nor the lines said anything new. The overall depth flattens, but just for a moment here and there.
Overall, I enjoyed it, and I believe it is a good evening’s entertainment. It is worth the ticket, and the glasses. But not for kids or teens. It rightfully earns its R rating for all reasons.