Nearly ten years after the last film, this long awaited sequel takes us back to Frank Miller’s dark, grey and white hellhole city, and reintroduces us to Marv (Mickey Rourke), the bruised and battered anti- hero who spends his nights lusting after stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) in a saloon bar, who finds redemption after saving a homeless guy from some drunken college boys. Nancy herself is a tormented soul, still having visions of her departed hero Hartigan (Bruce Willis.) But this is the guy who saved her from the beastly son of Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), who’s targeted her for revenge in place of him, and has also run chancer Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) out of town. Meanwhile, there’s the tale of the temptress the titular suffix is referring to, Ava (Eva Green), who’s got embittered tough guy Dwight (Josh Brolin) wrapped around her little finger.
In an industry where the cash cow sequel is quickly churned out to a hugely successful film, writer/director duo Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have shown admirable restraint, if nothing else, by making fans wait nearly a decade for this follow up to 2005’s adaptation of Miller’s graphic novel starring Bruce Willis, who has only intermittent moments this time round as a mere spook. Retaining the distinctively grey, bleary background look and not skimping any more on the brutal, blood splattered violence of the first film, the makers have delivered a film that has all the fundamentals right, but doesn’t quite come together the way the original did.
By making the fans wait so long, you would hope that the golden pair were trying to prepare something genuinely masterful, with every little cylinder firing just right, and the film doesn’t shatter this illusion. The problem here may be over ambition, with a desire to recreate the flashy, comic book style of the novels coming at the expense of a truly coherent, at times even logical story. While the atmosphere, the low pitched, gravelly delivery of the dialogue and the moodily grey and black settings still carry it along nicely, without a solid structure at the heart of it, after a while it all gets a bit too much.
For all this, though, the characters, the driving force of the film, are no less engaging. Brolin is a suitably picked lead tough guy, who does the whole mumbling, brooding thing just brilliantly, who has perfect support with Rourke as his cohort. Probably most impressive is once again Boothe as the sinister, evil villain, who does cold and icy just great. The only thing that lets everything on the surface down is the misfiring Pulp Fiction style narrative structure, the one spanner in the works in what is otherwise still an exhilarating, distinctive experience unlike any other.
7 out of 10 stars