MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’ Is An Underwhelming Callback To Adolescence

sin city

Film: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin

After 9 years of waiting for another foray into bloody black and white cinematic madness, the sequel to Sin City has finally arrived. Was it really worth the wait, though? As a pre-teen back in 2005, this was the kind of pulp noir fiction that my puberty-stricken primal instinct fed off of. Now typing before you is a 21-year-old who hasn’t grown any wiser when it comes to violent entertainment like this.  Betwixt the beheadings, limb chopping, and nude women is still a person who finds enjoyment in being exposed to the kind of joyful refuse that Hollywood can sometimes churn out. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For may not be as interesting, joyful, and operatic as the original but there’s enough here to call ‘fun.’

This adventure back into Frank Miller’s Ba(Sin) City introduces us to a slew of new and old characters that all suffer from some bloody plight. Marv (Mickey Rourke) can’t seem to satiate his blood thirst nowadays as he recounts another murderous tale in the film’s opening. Nancy (Jessica Alba) is having a hard time coping with John Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) death and decides to plot revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Dwight (previously played by Clive Owen) must deal with Ava Lord (Eva Green), a lover from the past, and gets sucked into a murder plot that threatens his life. By his side remains Gail (Rosario Dawson), as he must kill the bad guys once again. Last but not least, there’s Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hotshot gambler who after being beaten for his winnings against Senator Roark, must exact revenge. In pure Sin City style, all of these stories interlace with each other at one point in time.

Unlike the original, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For suffers from the structure of the vignettes employed in this comic book adaptation. The 2005 journey into the heart of noir-ish darkness perfectly splices the stories together while also letting them stand on their own. In this, it seems like the storylines that were made up for the film tried too hard to include the whole gang of characters in every story. The greatest thing about having loosely connected vignettes is that a film can focus on one character at a time, developing them, beating the hell out of them, and then most of the time, killing them off. Marv’s opening monologue feels forced, rushed, and repetitive as he tries to welcome us back to Sin City like he’s the gatekeeper. Jessica Alba’s stripping sequences are amped up to 11 in this as if it seems like Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez realized they were running short on time and decided to buffer some of those stewing moments with Marv killing people gruesomely and Nancy strutting her stuff all emotional-like.

There is no way to justify the grotesquely stylized violence that occurs in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. It’s just another sign of the times. A pre-teen is willing to throw out any measure of logic when it comes to such a primal experience as the original Sin City. Now as an adult, you get most of the same feelings. Films like this appeal to the intrinsic part of humans where some joy is found in watching a guy/gal go on murdering sprees with the intention of killing bad guys. That’s exactly what Sin City: A Dame to Kill For delivers on even if it isn’t as fluid and fast-paced as the original.

An immensely talented cast bolsters this adventure riffing off of tropes built from 1940s-50s noir films. Josh Brolin plays the role of a violently angry man duped by an ex-lover with ease. His scenes could have easily been ripped from an old Humphrey Bogart film and I mean that in the best way possible. Eva Green, who again has no problem baring all (especially in 300: Rise of an Empire), looks exactly like a femme fatale would look like from something directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She brings her signature ferocity to every part she plays and in a lot of cases, she is the best part. Jessica Alba strips more than emotes in this sequel, as we get minimal to no more insight into the character that added to her star-power back in 2005.

Mickey Rourke is having the most fun with his character as he laughs every time he beats someone half to death. And yes, he even dives through a windshield, disarms the driver, and hops out without a scratch, again. Juno Temple, who played Dottie in the criminally under seen Killer Joe, even shows up for a small part as an escort/con-artist. When the world realizes that this actress belongs in everything, I will be waiting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also does a good job with the scant material given to him, perfectly playing the wisecracking and cocky gambler. If you don’t see your favorite actor above, it’s because they got minimal to no screen time or simply weren’t memorable.

Plot and story structure nitpicks aside, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is further proof of the beautiful wonders that can be concocted through digital filmmaking. Everything is just so vivid, realized and vibrant. If Miller and Rodriguez’s goal was to replicate the original series of graphic novels panel by panel, they have succeeded. I rarely see a film that uses every tool possible to construct such a stylized visual world with CGI. There is beauty in black & white and it seems that Rodriguez may be the only one to fully realize that right now.

All in all, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For may be a touch too late for the ones who braved the theaters all the way back in 2005. If you let your guard down though, this will prove to be a more than accessible piece of pulp fiction for a viewer to gasp and sometimes laugh at.

GRADE: C-

Review written by Sam Cohen — ()

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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