Not Exactly the Dame You Were Hoping to Kill For
It’s been a long time coming but after a nine year wait the sequel to the beloved cult hit Sin City has finally arrived. The original film was something of a technical marvel at the time thanks to its sleek groundbreaking effects used to tell Frank Miller’s neo-noir adventures. Sin City’s style is one of a kind thanks to it’s impressive melding of practical and CG sets, slick and instantly quotable dialog, and outstanding star studded cast. In the nine years since the original there hasn’t been anything out there quite like it even though technology has surpassed the break through techniques developed in 2005. Does A Dame to Kill For carry the hint of fresh air the original delivered or has the latest and greatest left this piece of eye candy left in the dust?
A Dame to Kill For continues the anthology format of the original film by telling four separate stories that are loosely connected. The titular story is the meatiest of the bunch and follows Dwight(Josh Brolin who is replacing Clive Owen) as he reconnects with his old flame Ava(Eva Green) who has landed herself in another dangerous situation. It finds out she’s being held in her husband’s clutches by the hulking Manute(Dennis Haysbert filling in for the late Michael Clark Duncan). Despite his mixed feelings, Dwight decides to try and break her free by recruiting the help of resident muscle, Marv (Mickey Rourke).
A Dame to Kill For is actually a prequel to the original film’s The Big Fat Kill although I’m positive less die hard audiences won’t make the connection. Clive Owen may pull off Dwight’s slick swagger, but Josh Brolin totally owns the role. He sells the darker obsessions that the character faces in a way that adds even more layers to Owen’s turn in the first movie. I’m not sure if it’s his look, voice, or air of desperation, but his take on Dwight cements yet another iconic role in the actors quickly expanding portfolio. Brolin is great but it’s actually Eva Green’s impeccable take on the classic female fatale that steals the show. She mixes the darkly seductive confidence of Barbara Stanwyck with the determination of Mary Astor to create a woman who is infinitely more dangerous without having to lift even a finger. Green eats up every scene she’s in and once again proves that she’s one of the best working actresses in the business.
The second story features a young and upcoming gambler named Johnny(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who heads into Sin City dead set on proving he’s the best at what he does. He decides to go big and play a game of cards against the city’s big bad, Senator Roark(Powers Boothe). Joseph Gordon Levitt looks like he’s enjoying every second of screen time and Powers Booth continues to prove he knows how to play the ultimate slim-ball politician. Even though The Long Bad Night starts off strong and offers some legitimately exciting suspense, it goes out on a low note that practically robs the story of any real impact. I loved the idea and enjoyed the ride, but ultimately found it to be almost completely inconsequential.
The film is bookended by a couple of tie ins to the original flick featuring Marv and Nancy(Jessica Alba). Though brief, Just Another Saturday Night gives us another fling with Marv as he wakes up bloody in the middle of a street and tries to remember how he got there. It’s not much, but any excuse to have Mickey Rourke on screen(and boy does the movie bring him in as much as possible) is welcome in my book.
Nancy’s Last Dance wraps the film by beginning after John Hartigan(Bruce Willis) commits the murder-suicide with Senator Roark’s son “The Yellow Bastard” in the original film. Nancy sheds her innocence and becomes consumed by vengeance as she trains for the day she can finish the job. It’s easily the darkest tale of the film and serves as the final period on John Hartigan’s story from the first film. If we never see another Sin City, this was a great way to cap of the series thanks to its links to multiple story lines from both films.
Even though The Long Bad Night comes across like the bad egg of the bunch, the quality of the stories is about on par with the first film. What this movie lacks is a nice cohesive flow. The plot structure of this film is far more jarring when it shifts from one tale to another and it’s not always clear where each story is relative to the others. The first film almost felt seamless despite the fact that there were at least five different stories, but A Dame to Kill For seems comes across as flat out sloppy.
The film still carries the same style and personality that made the original such a feat, but unfortunately the novelty of the visual effects hasn’t exactly stuck around. This movie still has a breathtaking art direction and implementation, but now that we’ve seen movies like Avatar that have taken those visual techniques to the next level, the accomplishment just doesn’t seem quite as daunting.
Sin City A Dame to Kill For is a proper sequel in ever sense of the word. It delivers more on everything fans of the first film would want and it doesn’t ever sacrifice its style or get overstuffed with sequelitis like so many long developed film do. It’s still unlike anything else in theaters this summer and its a bloody good time for fans of noir. Unfortunately it lacks the teeth and novelty that made the 2005 flick such stand out film. Fans looking for more of the same are in for a real treat, but other filmgoers and casual audiences aren’t really going to understand what the nine year hoopla was really all about.
Most of the stories play into all the classic trends and tropes of a noir, but what sets these stories about isn’t the substance, but the style. The JGL feature The Long Bad Night is an engaging ride that doesn’t end on a ripe note. The titular story A Dame to Kill For delivers one of the most compelling Sin City tales to date.
Character / Acting: 9.0
If there’s one thing this movie pulls off flawlessly, it’s the casting. Eva Green steal the movie as the ultimate female fatale as she proves she can play deadly, seductive, and charming all in one. Mickey Rourke is worked into the film as much as possible and I can’t say I’m too upset about it. Actors missing like the late Michael Clarke Duncan were more than felt, but Rodriguez really upped his game in casting the new characters.
The style of Sin City is just the same as you remember it. Slick, bloody, and unlike anything else from the comic book genre. The visual effects are still impressive, but now that we’re in an era where the once innovative techniques are more commonplace the novelty seems to have worn off. The art direction is still as strong as ever thanks to a clever use of color and some truly breathtaking backdrops.
Overall Effectiveness of the Film: 7.0
This film is going to deliver to the fans who have waited all this time for the return. Unlike the original it’s not really breaking any new ground, but it’s still a decent film unlike any other you’ll see in the theater this summer.
Overall Score: 7.0
Original post can be found at Renegade Cinema