The reason Sin City received such positive reviews upon its release in 2005 was because of the way in which it brought its pulpy and visually arresting comic book source material to the screen in an almost frame for frame fashion. It also managed to balance multiple stories evenly with just enough fun and interesting content in each to compel the audience. It has been nine years and we finally have another Sin City film. And just like its predecessor, this movie is beautiful to behold. It has all the majestically developed color schemes that make the film appear as a prime example of film noir mixed with strikingly beautiful outbursts of violence and bloodshed. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez do excellent work at bringing the world of Miller’s comics to the big screen in a cartoonish and over the top fashion. This time around, there is a big, hulking, unavoidable problem, and it happens to be Frank Miller’s script.
This movie is a drag. It starts of relatively strong with Marv (Mickey Rourke, once again being a massive screen presence) going about his business in Basin City (shortened to Sin City for obvious reasons). Then there’s the stuff with Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character Johnny, a no-holds-barred gambler with high ambitions who wants to take down the biggest villain in the city, Senator Rourke (Powers Booth). All this is fine and well. The poker scenes between Johnny and Rourke were actually the most intense and hard-hitting scenes in the entire movie. Gordon-Levitt, one of my favorite actors right now, dials in another good performance, making this a seemingly endless streak of good roles. Then there is the title chapter (if you don’t know, the stories are separated by chapter titles. Johnny’s story is titled “Just Another Saturday Night,” etc.)
“A Dame to Kill For” is the biggest and most important overarching story of the entire film and this is where things get bad. Or should I just say boring? Josh Brolin plays Dwight, a conflicted man who falls for Ava (Eva Green, note the distinction of the vowels), a dame who happens to have an abusive husband. He decides to help her. But of course, this dame isn’t all she puts herself out there to be. She has darker intentions under her sleeve. And there is no one better to play this antagonistic sex machine than Eva Green. She does a good job in the film at doing what it is the movie requires her to do… just being sexy. And she is really sexy. Brolin does fine work too, but neither one of them can truly save this portion of the story from Miller’s script.
This is coming from a guy who loves Frank Miller’s work. The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One are two of my favorite graphic novels and I hold the latter dear to me as being the definitive Batman comic. His run on Daredevil is pretty highly regarded, as is his Wolverine arc. The man knows comics, and I liked the original Sin City film very much. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong with A Dame to Kill For, but there really isn’t much to grasp onto with the central story. The characters never feel like ones you want to care about and it honestly just feels boring at times. I have to say that for the majority of the second act of this film, I almost wanted to go to sleep.
But then it starts to find its footing again toward the ending. We finally get some stuff with Johnny and Rourke again and then Jessica Alba’s Nancy appears as a main character and her story is one of the best. Miller did find a tangible way to bring back Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and I had no objection to seeing him on screen again. The main issue with the film is that Miller wrote 20 minutes of interesting stuff in the beginning, 20 minutes of interesting stuff for the ending, but wrote a slump of nothingness for the middle hour.
However, I can’t say this is a bad movie for that reason. It never lives up to the strengths of Sin City and it isn’t what a sequel to this franchise could have been, but there is no denying the style and artistic ownership that Miller has put on display. For a movie with all these cast members (I didn’t even mention Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple, Christopher Lloyd, or… Lady Gaga), over the top violence, and the bare breasted Eva Green, I walked out wishing it had been better. But despite the inconsistencies in the script and the frustrating second act, it’s impossible to walk out of it without appreciating the sheer beauty of the comic book inspired visuals or the black-and-white color scheme that is so appealing you can almost taste it.
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) 104 mins Rated R for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use Cast: Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Christopher Meloni, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Christopher Lloyd, Bruce Willis Writer: Frank Miller Directors: Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez
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