0314 | Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin-City-A-Dame-To-Kill-for-WallpaperThe warning signs were evident way before Sin City: A Dame To Kill For collected a haul of bad reviews in 2014 while plopping into the lives of the general public. A long period of gestation followed in the wake of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s original 2005 hit Sin City, which was based on Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, and a worrying amount of writing and re-writing (including some at the behest of executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein) took place between 2006 and 2011. Then, upon completion, Miramax put the scheduled release date back from 2013 to 2014 (supposedly to avoid clashes with Rodriguez’s Machete Kills). Eventually A Dame To Kill For found its way into the multiplexes, but one wonders whether enthusiasm for the project had gradually waned over the years, especially given the fact the Weinsteins seemed keener to discuss the development of a TV spin-off than the film itself.

Some actors – Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Jaime King – return for this second outing but others – Clive Owen, Devon Aoki, Michael Madsen, Michael Clarke Duncan – are not present for a number of reasons (Duncan, for example, passed away shortly before filming started). Added to the cast, however, are several medium-sized names: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Dennis Haysbert have the prominent roles, while there are a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss-em cameos for Christopher Lloyd, Ray Liotta, Lady Gaga, Stacy Keach, Jeremy Piven and many more. Inevitably some work better than others.

While criticism of the film primarily seemed to identify the screenplay as the main problem, with disgruntled reviewers claiming to be bored, Rodriguez and Miller were always on a hiding to nothing. For one thing they had the element of surprise on their side a decade ago, and the impact that their hyper-stylized, monochromatic and ultraviolent world had on viewers could not be relied upon again; though still essentially one big red light district with token docklands and out-of-town mansions up in the hills, this city now seems a touch duller due to familiarity with the milieu. Ah, the lot of the sequel, eh?

The exploitation of women continues unchecked, and sadly only Eva Green’s repeatedly-naked femme fatale stands out, with the rest little more than a cavalcade of interchangeable strippers and badass prostitute-assassins. Meanwhile the men are, once again, a bunch of tough-talking noir exaggerations who bed the vamps and smash one another through numerous panes of glass (seriously, if you want to make it in Sin City, become a glazier). Some characters, such as Rourke’s brutish slugger Marv, have also lost some of the mystique that helped to make Sin City so enjoyable, although giving Boothe’s vicious and smug Senator Roark a more prominent role this time was a good move.

The new movie shares its predecessor’s episodic structure, with the Gordon-Levitt-starring The Long Bad Night split into two distinct (and distinctly underwhelming parts). That’s a story Miller penned for this film, and sadly it fails to capture the imagination in the same way That Yellow Bastard, The Big Fat Kill or The Hard Goodbye did ten years ago. Slightly better is A Dame To Kill For, a straightforward tale of double-crossing and revenge featuring Brolin’s Dwight McCarthy and Green’s calculating Ava Lord. It ends up in a pointless, violent war, with an army of disposable henchmen losing their heads, but I was entertained. Marv and Alba’s Nancy feature in another short, but this largely re-treads old ground without offering anything fresh.

Given that the style and the subject matter is largely the same as the first film, I suspect that fans will find sitting through Sin City: A Dame To Kill For less of a chore than the majority of reviews in 2014 suggested it would be. While it’s clearly not as good as Sin City, there is some fun to be had from seeing this pulpy, comic style once again, and to revisit this stripped back, contrast-heavy variation on New York City. I still like the flashes of colour that appear (red blood occasionally spatters across the screen, Eva Green’s eyes are green, etc) and the fact there’s no advertising anywhere (bottles of alcohol are simply labelled ‘Booze’), while there are several creatively-staged ‘end-of-panel’ moments. So even with the underlying sensation of déjà vu it’s not all bad; in fact if you compare it to Miller’s utterly dismal 2008 film The Spirit it feels like you’re watching a triumphant masterpiece.

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller.
Written by: Frank Miller. Based on Sin City by Frank Miller.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Josh Brolin, Dennis Haysbert, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Chung, Bruce Willis, Christopher Lloyd, Jeremy Piven, Juno Temple, Ray Liotta.
Cinematography: Robert Rodriguez.
Editing: Robert Rodriguez.
Music: Robert Rodriguez, Carl Thiel.
Certificate: 18.
Running Time: 102 minutes.
Year: 2014.

Comments 19

    • Stu July 8, 2015

      I didn’t think it was all that bad, but definitely not as good as the first one. They definitely shouldn’t make any more, though, I think it has run its course now…although might be better suited to the shorter TV format.

  1. ruth July 7, 2015

    I didn’t care for this sequel, though Ava is perfectly believable as a Dame men would kill for. The first film had that novelty value in terms of its visuals, and also the rugged Clive Owen.

    • Stu July 8, 2015

      That novelty value was lacking, although there were moments/specific shots here that I found entertaining. I’m a Clive Owen fan and think he did the right thing by passing (presuming they asked him to come back, that is). Josh Brolin’s a good actor but I think they got the casting right first time round.

  2. Jordan Dodd July 7, 2015

    Great write up, though I couldn’t get into this a whole lot. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the only good thing about it for me, his character was great. My question was: where did all the colour go?? The original had reds and yellows everywhere to contrast against the noir B&W. This one has barely any of that – Eva Green’s blue eyes are the only colour I remember.

    And the nudity was just there for the sake of it too, which is appreciated but kinda makes the film seem more like a cash grab. It was an entertaining watch though, I’ll give it that. But I missed the surreal feeling that the first gave me

    • Stu July 8, 2015

      Thanks Jordan. I didn’t think there was more colour in the first one but it’s a long time since I watched it so maybe I’m mis-remembering. I remember the yellow guy really stood out!
      The nudity is just a gimmick here. Rodriguez would probably defend himself by pointing to his love of exploitation and the links the Sin City films have to that genre, but the whole gun-toting scantily clad stripper thing in all his films is so depressing. There’s a great article here (http://screenrobot.com/went-wrong-robert-rodriguez/) which pretty much sums him up with this quote – “A director whose style more resembles that of a fourteen-year-old boy with one hand clutching his dick and the other desperately fumbling for the Kleenex”

      • Jordan Dodd July 8, 2015

        Hahahaha!! That statement is pretty funny, thanks for the link.

        The original had a bit more colour, but for me it also had a really surreal vibe. eg The cell surrounded by nothingness that Willis is in, the guy who freaking has a collection of heads… this didn’t have that level of crazy to it.

        Plus Tarantino was involved in making the first, perhaps it was his influence that made the first what it is. Pretty sure he was a ‘guest director’ on the first.

        • Stu July 8, 2015

          Yeah he did the section where Dwight talks to Benecio Del Toro’s (dead) character in a car. That was pretty weird!

        • Jordan Dodd July 8, 2015

          Yeah, that’s the sorta stuff that seemed missing. Is that all he did? Cos those are the sorta moments I missed.. I mean a dude who eats people, a lot of it was very surreal!

        • Stu July 8, 2015

          Haha yeah the villains were far less grotesque this time round. Elijah Wood’s character was really weird.

  3. Todd Benefiel July 8, 2015

    Ahhh, so many good movies to watch, and so many to leave by the wayside. I only saw the first ‘Sin City’, and wasn’t all that keen on that one, so I’m guessing I’m not going to be too thrilled by its sequel, either. Thanks for the heads up, Stu!

    And sorry for being blind, but when did you stop giving your reviewed movies a 1-10 rating? Any particular reason for doing so?

    • Stu July 8, 2015

      Hey Todd, if you didn’t like the first then you should definitely give this a miss. It’s not as good, although I certainly found some of it entertaining.
      I stopped with the ratings a few weeks ago. I’d been thinking about it for a while and decided to make the change. It is the 1990s after all!

  4. Tom July 12, 2015

    I enjoyed this for the most part. It definitely plays victim to a lot of those broad-stroke criticisms we level at sequels — it simply just “isn’t the same,” or some of the characters not returning is problematic, etc. But I thought as far as a second Sin City film goes, released this late, itt could have been FAR worse. There was a lot to like actually. Fans of the original should take to this more easily.

    • Stu July 13, 2015

      Yeah I agree with you, could have been a lot worse. I really liked the first one at the time, and was pleasantly surprised by this. It’s not as good but I’d read some really nasty reviews last year and now I’ve finally seen it I think some of them were a little unfair.

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