"Metal screams. Something hits me square in the chest. I've done something again. I wish I could remember what."
That's the opening monologue of "Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," and it's delivered by Marv, the psychotic bruiser from 2005's comic-book-in-motion "Sin City." Played once again by Mickey Rourke in biker boots and a square-skulled prosthetic, Marv ushers us into a dark underworld where kisses are deadly, murder is sweet and "Sunset Blvd." intersects with "Chinatown." Here, the men are cauldrons of rage, the women are underdressed and nearly everyone ends up tasting lead.
Stop reading now if you're allergic to testosterone, because "Dame" slathers it on like cologne. As with the first film, it's co-directed by Robert Rodriguez ("Machete") and writer Frank Miller ("The Dark Knight" comics), connoisseurs of dime novels, film noir and the tawdrier comics of yesteryear (before we elevated them to "graphic novels"). The movie's trademark mix of live action and drawing techniques (white silhouettes, reddened lips, an abundance of venetian blinds) looks fantastic. If it's depth you want, you've knocked on the wrong door.
"Dame" is a jumble of narratives featuring characters new and old: Jessica Alba returns as Nancy, a stripper with a grudge; Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Johnny, a cocky card shark who takes on Senator Roark (a despicably good Powers Boothe); Josh Brolin replaces Clive Owen as Dwight, a hard case who's soft on broads. Jeremy Piven and Christopher Meloni are enjoyable in a short subplot swiped from "Double Indemnity," and even Lady Gaga gets a bit part, but the standout here is Eva Green ("Dark Shadows"). She's so sinister as a femme fatale -- the dame of the title -- that she may have shaped the role: Her name is Ava, and her eyes glow a toxic green.
Though less feverish and unhinged than the first film, "Dame" is visually impressive and at least superficially entertaining. Its goal is to be hackneyed, preposterous and hilariously macho, and it thoroughly succeeds.
PLOT New and old characters mix it up in a sequel to the 2005 comic-book noir.
RATING R (extreme violence, nudity and sex)
CAST Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
BOTTOM LINE Sillier than the original, if that's possible, and almost as entertaining.
IN FRANK MILLER FLICKS, THE BLOOD TYPES ALL MATCH
After lighting up the Dark Knight at DC Comics and giving Marvel an Elektra complex, hard-boiled writer-artist Frank Miller turned his attention to movies. With his hyper-stylish eye, Grand Guignol bloodletting and black-and-white morality (and sometimes cinematography), there's no mistaking Miller time.
ROBOCOP 2 (1990). His film debut, as story writer and co-screenwriter, was criticized as darker and more violent than even its pretty violent predecessor. He toned it down when taking the same writing roles on the PG-13 "RoboCop 3" (1993).
SIN CITY (2005). Director Robert Rodriguez gave Miller a co-director credit in this phantasmagoric neo-noir based on the writer's initial "Sin City" stories in Dark Horse Comics, later collected as the book "The Hard Goodbye."
300 (2007). Miller stepped aside to let fellow visual stylist Zack Snyder co-write and co-direct this hit adaptation of Miller's blood-soaked miniseries of Spartan King Leonidas' stand against the Persians at Thermopylae in a fantasy 480 BC.
THE SPIRIT (2008). The "Showgirls" of comic-book movies, this fascinating failure gave first-time solo writer-director Miller, adapting Will Eisner's classic 1940s masked-detective comic, a free hand.
-- Frank Lovece