Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
It’s been nearly ten years since we first visited Sin City – Basin City, that is – on the big screen, and while it’s a welcome return , though hardly a welcoming town, no amount of time passed will ever recreate the initially novelty of the exotic, violent, and creepy world.
Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller return with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a continuation of the various stories told in this sordid world based on the comics by Miller. Back is brutish Marv (Mickey Rourke), the siren Nancy (Jessica Alba), her guardian Hartigan (Bruce Willis), and the female assassins of Old Town led by Gail (Rosario Dawson). Gone though is the wonderment.
Still possessive of the same visually remarkable look, a palette that includes the blackest of blacks, blistering whites, and a dash of violent red and orange. For some of the more violent scenes, and there are plenty, we cut away to dazzling silhouettes and choreographed geometric shapes that look like some Fantasia nightmare.
Much has changed too in this world, but more out of necessity. Josh Brolin takes over duties from Clive Owen as noir’s leading, conflicted male with an inner demon. Meanwhile, Dennis Haysbert replaces Michael Clarke Duncan as another monstrous figure Manute, Jamie Chung takes over for Devon Aoki as a nimble, sword-wielding murderess, and Jeremy Piven is in the sniveling detective role previously taken by Michael Madsen.
The actors playing the characters may not matter as much – neither does the time frame in which the stories take place (some are prequels) – as it’s the look and sound and the feel that stand out. Violent and bloody, maybe more so than the first installment, this second part in the film franchise of Sin City is a massive, beautifully tragic car crash, something from which you can’t look away but don’t want to be around in the first place.
In fact, it begins with a car crash, as Marv in a drunken stupor tries to recollect the latest moments of his chaotic, ageless existence. Some people are dead, he’s a bit worse for wear, but Nancy as always is alive and well. Well, not well, as she mourns the loss of her protector Hartigan while dealing with a slimy senator (Powers Boothe).
Stories continue to intertwine as said Senator gets bamboozled in his poker ring by a newcomer to Basin City in Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). A cocky smooth-talker with a magic touch, he wins at will, but his mouth and quick step isn’t enough to battle the muscle that makes up this corrupt city.
Elsewhere, Dwight falls for the title dame, the beautiful enchantress Ava (Eva Green), allowing love and lust to cloud in judgment. The movie makes it hard to exactly blame him, as Ava tempts with her words and her body, whether basking nude in the shadows or swimming in her white-hot pool.
Less convincing and satisfying than the original and not paced as well, A Dame to Kill For is wildly entertaining yet more surface than substance, and it’s hard to align necessarily with the various anti-heroes as the narratives switch back and forth. It’s not anyone’s movie in particular (though Christopher Lloyd is memorably in brief as a wacky doctor), thus becoming a triumph of pleasurable excess than one of film noir storytelling.