There are two key problems with SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller waited too long to produce a sequel to their 2005 hit, which means the appetite for more tales from the titular city has long since evaporated; and the collection of stories featured in A DAME TO KILL FOR are all substandard compared to anything from before.
But that's not to say SIN CITY 2's a complete washout. If you're a fan of the first film, it guarantees more of the same. Some feel the lack of noticeable evolution with the technology's a problem, but I don't agree. This universe has a particular look (a largely monochrome appearance with dashes of vibrant colour, and a tendency to snap into stark silhouettes to ape the graphic novel source material), and to alter that too much would be wrong. There are sequences that are moderately more ambitious than anything seen in SIN CITY, but for the most part A DAME TO KILL FOR could have been made in 2005. Is that a flaw? For me, no—but clearly opinions will vary.
It also benefits from the involvement of Eva Green as the eponymous dame, Ava Lord, who adds another femme fatale to her growing resume. Green can play these characters in her sleep, and yet it never feels like she's sleepwalking through the performance. As with 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, she's the best thing in it, and seems particularly adept with the overcooked, hard-boiled dialogue of Frank Miller universes. Plus you get to see her almost completely naked for much of the film, which brings its own pleasures.
Unfortunately, there are good arguments for every storyline being something of a letdown. "Just Another Saturday Night" is a perfunctory introduction to meathead Marv (Mickey Rourke), who reappears because A DAME TO KILL FOR is positioned as a prequel; "The Long Bad Night" with card shark Johnny (Joseph Godon Levitt) has a decent first part, then returns for a colossally unsatisfying second; "A Dame to Kill For" is the most robust chunk of the film, featuring Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen) as he comes under the spell of a beautiful seductress (the aforementioned Green) and needs Marv's help; and "Nancy's Last Dance" unforgivably focuses on stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba), for a tale set four years after SIN CITY's "That Yellow Bastard" and featuring ghostly cameo's from dead cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Oh, and there's a healthy dose of Marv again, because SIN CITY 2 clearly believes appearances from Mickey Rourke will cover any shortfalls with its narrative. Wrong.
But while there are lots of problems with the script (the reason Angelina Jolie dropped out of the running to play Ava?), and nothing manages to beguile or shock like the original managed, it's hard to dislike SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. It's an entertainingly sordid and violent return to an amusingly OTT universe, which takes pulp cinema and comic book film noir to trashy heights. I didn't mind taking another trip to (Ba)sin City, despite the bumpier road and overfamiliar scenery, but a third film would be pushing things. The box-office failure of this follow-up (it grossed $39.4m on a $65m budget) guarantees beleaguered filmmaker Robert Rodriguez will have look elsewhere for his next, long-overdue hit.
★★ (out of five)
This would have been a great movie if it was made in the 1980s, but unfortunately it forms part of that post-Judd Apatow wave of films the U.S system can't evolve beyond. Apatow isn't actually involved with BAD NEIGHBOURS (its UK title), but regular cohort Seth Rogen is a producer/star who shares his vision.
Cue lots of man-child antics, verbal diarrhoea, some obligatory gross-outs, and copious pop-culture references that are going to make BAD NEIGHBOURS feel like an embarrassing relic in 10 years time. It might survive that if it was hilarious at its core, but all of the best jokes are in the trailer (which is what happens every time films like this are marketed), and I didn't buy into much of it...
27-year-old Zac Efron's pretending to be, what, 18... and 32-year-old Rogen's pretending to be pushing 40? I'm surprised genuine teenage actors in the U.S haven't striked over the fact their parts are taken by people in their late-twenties. But that's been happening for so long that I don't non-Americans really know what a genuine 18-year-old American looks like, unless they watch a lot of reality TV.
Oh well, I'm sure Rogen had fun pretending to be the husband of the lovely Rose Byrne. Will there ever come a time when he plays a character who hasn't managed to land himself a beauty, or is attractive to women way out of his league? Not while he's still a producer on these things, clearly.
Small mercies: BAD NEIGHBOURS has a respectable runtime and isn't as offensive as a lot of these fratboy comedies can be. I also quite liked the occasional hint (mainly through the soundtrack) that the fraternity have quite retro taste that's from Rogen's heyday, and it was thankfully missing a stupid gag reel playing over the end credits.
★★ (out of five)
The original was a surprisingly effective and meaningful big-screen farewell for these TV characters, but the sequel is the shameless cash-grab many expected.
It repeats the basic idea of the first movie (the four sex-obsessed lads go on holiday), only this time shifting the action to Australia. The story doesn't do much with the location or culture to warrant the effort, and there's a weird decision to make most of the supporting characters English anyway.
There are a handful of chuckles to be had if you love the TV series, and a genuinely funny waterslide set-piece halfway through, but it's largely uninspired and--most unforgivably--sours how the first movie ended the show on a memorable, unexpected high. This is particularly hurtful when the boy's relationships with their first-time serious girlfriends are revealed to have failed between films; including one being turned into a bunny boiling lunatic for a few giggles. It's never fun to have a 'happily ever after' crudely erased.
But I guess everyone had a great time making THE INBETWEENERS 2, and the four boys got much better pay cheques (to compensate for the first movie becoming a surprise UK smash-hit). No doubt the creator-writers had quite a windfall, too, as they also promoted themselves to directors.
Another sequel is apparently unlikely, but that's what they said last time. Difference is, this time I doubt public demand's there for THE INBETWEENERS 3. Mind you, can the writers resist the mirth-making chance to release a 'Threesome' box-set?