While still possessing much the same, impressive visual style as the original, and the same, loosely anthological structure, this doesn't have as much emotional heart. Brolin and Levitt, as a defective and gambler, are pale imitations of Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis in the original. perhaps a result of their respective youth. Both of the latter have supporting roles here, but like much of the movie, this makes things feel more overstuffed than anything (hello, Lady Gaga in a pointless cameo as a waitress). The only one who really seems to work on the right level is Green's femme fatale, a truly nasty piece of work, who is both inviting and utterly poisonous. Her story, which gives this sequel its subtitle and in which she seduces former lover Dwight (Brolin, taking over from Clive Owen, without matching him in any way), in order to escape her current marriage, is certainly the most effective of the ones included here.
The other main story, gambler Johnny (Levitt) facing off against the all-powerful Senator Roark (Boothe), in a grudge match he's bound to lose one way or another, is nowhere near as effective. It's convoluted and implausible - even by the dubious standards of Frank Miller. The film is also rather confusing overall, in that some of the events depicted pre-date the first film, while others clearly happen after it. Rodriguez should make up his damn mind whether he wants to do a prequel or sequel, instead of what comes off as a half-assed attempt at both. While not as lame a sequel as Machete Kills, it does seem to show, once again, that Rodriguez is better off exploring new territory than revisiting old haunts. But can someone please give Green a full-on role befitting her talents? She's definitely overachieving in this one, and the rest of the cast look positively dim and dowdy in comparison.