Buried in the middle of the brilliantly repulsive first Sin City film is a scene that will be seared into the memory banks of anyone who saw it.
Overseen by Quentin Tarantino, it involved Clive Owen's character having a conversation with Benicio Del Toro, a corpse propped up in the front seat of a car with a gun barrel jutting out of his forehead. Halfway through their chat the police pulled them over.
There's nothing as memorably gripping in Sin City 2. In fact, the much-delayed sequel - once again co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Sin City's creator Frank Miller - feels like a flatter follow-up to the much-loved original.
That 2005 shocker broke stylistic boundaries with its bleak storytelling, black-and-white colour schemes and use of ultraviolence that splashed reds and oozed yellows across the screen.
But A Dame to Kill For doesn't have the same impact, perhaps because the first film used Miller's best material.
This one, based on his second comic book collection with added original material, interweaves somewhat noir stories and characters that sound suspiciously familiar: the thuggish politician ruling with an iron fist, the black widow manipulating all the men around her, the up-and-coming card shark ruffling feathers at casinos, and the stripper looking to avenge the death of her dad.
But though there's nothing here to greatly differentiate this Sin City from the original, there is still much to enjoy. Like Powers Booth's scene-stealing turn as power-tripping politician Senator Roark. Or Mickey Rourke's cauliflower-faced turn as good guy thug Marv. Or Eva Green's venomous Ava Lord. Or the way Jessica Alba's stripper Nancy Callahan wraps everything up nicely with a blood-soaked finale.
Despite all that, the real reason this Sin City doesn't fare as well is that its violence has been muted to a cartoonish level, many fight scenes blurring into monotony. At one point, a wonderfully rendered quadruple beheading on a rooftop is turned into a pointlessly animated montage.
Perhaps, as the first instalment of a serialised TV show, this might have made a kick-ass pilot. Instead, it's become a big-screen flop, and a critical failure. So make the most of it, Sin City fans, because this might be your last ride into this hell-hole.
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Eva Green, Bruce Willis
Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Verdict: So-so second outing of comic book carnage