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updated: 8/21/2014 2:58 PM

Gire: 3-D 'Sin City' sequel a visual sucker punch

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  • Gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) drives a hard bargain in the noiry action thriller "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

    Gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) drives a hard bargain in the noiry action thriller "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

  • Dwight (Josh Brolin) constantly reminds himself to contain the monster in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

    Dwight (Josh Brolin) constantly reminds himself to contain the monster in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For."

  • Video: "A Dame To Kill For" trailer


Sin City.

A desperate town filled with ulterior motives and interior monologues.

A confusing town where a stripper never takes anything off and a socialite seldom puts anything on.

A terrible town where the good never die young because the good don't exist.

A black-and-white town that's red all over. Not in paint.

This is Frank Miller's "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," a hyper-stylized, noiry collision of Chester Gould and Damon Runyon, filtered through Mickey Spillane with a splatter of Quentin Tarantino.

Nine years have passed since the original "Sin City" invaded movie theaters with its adult graphic novel sensibilities sleekly translated into surrealistic, cinematic terms.

"A Dame to Kill For" reunites original co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez in a visually sizzling sequel detailing the eternal human quest for money, power, sex, violence and the meaning of existence.

Four out of five ain't bad.

Each main character (we can't really call anyone a "hero") gets his/her own little chapter to address us in pistol-whipped, Raymond Chandler-esque voice-overs.

Marv (reprised by Mickey Rourke as a hulking Frankenstein's thug right out of Dick Tracy rogue's gallery) begins by wiping out a group of snot-nose rich kids setting fire to homeless people for kicks.

"I've got a trust fund!" one screeches just before his ultraviolent death.

Marv has a platonic, protective relationship with disturbed stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba, reprising her oddly nudity-phobic dancer) who every night trains her six shooter on the sadistic, power-mad Senator Roark (Powers Boothe, with a subtle, satanic glow in his eyes), only to hold her fire in despair.

Then there's Dwight (Josh Brolin, continuing his streak of nasty tough guys), the plot's pivotal character, a rage-filled ex-con betrayed by his lover Ava Lord (Eva Green), a hot bod with a cold conscience and a warm smile for any man she needs to do her bidding.

Young gambler Johnny (the ceaselessly amazing Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is the fresh meat in this marketed sequel, a cocky kid on a mission. He has it in for the ruthless Roark, and their power poker games become the opening salvo in a violent war of wills.

An earthy Rosario Dawson and an angelic Juno Temple pop up in the supporting cast, most of it star-studded with studly stars: Dennis Haysbert (yes, the Allstate Insurance guy) as Ava's superhuman bodyguard who could pass for a James Bond henchman; Ray Liotta as a cheating hubby; Christopher Meloni as a Sin City cop trading virtue for Ava; Jeremy Piven as his unshaven sidekick; and Bruce Willis as the ghost of Hartigan, Nancy's man who blew his own brains out in the first "Sin City."

Yes, even a ghost, because "A Dame To Kill For" is a work of Shakespearean pulp-friction, a geek tragedy bleeding with avarice, seduction, manipulation and revenge.

And if revenge is a dish best served cold, then a revenge movie is a cinematic dish best served cold in small portions.

The one-dimensional characters in this three-dimensional thriller aren't quite enough to carry "A Dame to Kill For" for its 102 minutes.

Nor can Rodriguez's lurid, eye-popping cinematography (even of a naked Green, erotically swaddled by the shadows of noirish window blinds) sustain Miller's bombastically violent, comic-book action tale much beyond the 90-minute mark.

In "Sin City," the prose is purple ("She slips out of her coat like it's Christmas wrapping") and the cons are plentiful.

And every scene sucker-punches your eyeballs as the 3-D images rush up to give your retinas a big, slurpy kiss.

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