Action Adaptation

Hard-Boiled Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

August 22, 2014Ben MK

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Repent or die...

With comic-to-film adaptations becoming increasingly more cinematic in their scope (see big-budget powerhouses like X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the upcoming Batman v Superman), there's something to be said for a movie like Sin City, which favors hyper-stylized visuals that evoke a keen comic book aesthetic. And with its sequel, which has been nine long years in the making, directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller are finally ready to transport moviegoers back to that film noir world — a place where the liquor is hard, the moon is always full and the dames are to kill for.


Set before, after and in tandem with the events of the first film, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For reunites moviegoers with a familiar set of characters — ex-con anti-hero Marv (Mickey Rourke), gumshoe Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, inheriting the role from Clive Owen) and exotic dancer Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) — and introduces a few new ones — most notably Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a charismatic gambler who bites off more than he can chew, and smouldering seductress Ava Lord (Eva Green, in the film's most memorable role), the titular dame to kill for. It's an eclectic mix of personalities, but they all share one trait in common: all of them prowl the city's seedy, rain-slicked streets in search of good 'ol fashioned revenge.

Like Rodriguez and Miller's first foray into the noir-ish Hellhole that calls itself Basin City, the film is an anthology of sorts, weaving together several short, gritty stories rooted in the stark, black-and-white world of Miller's original Sin City comics, first published by Dark Horse over two decades ago.

In the brief opening yarn, Just Another Saturday Night, Marv finds himself caught up in the aftermath of a violent car wreck — with no memory of what's transpired — and must retrace his steps — all the way back to the dilapidated projects of Sin City — to find out how he got there.

The Long Bad Night — a brand new story written especially for the film — sees Johnny, an outsider to Sin City, striving to settle a bitter score with the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), after the corrupt politician — and father to that Yellow Bastard — brings Johnny's uncanny winning streak to an abrupt and bloody end, leaving him for dead by the roadside.

The film's pièce de résistance, A Dame to Kill For, has Dwight enlisting Marv's brute force talents to aid old flame Ava, whom he believes to be in mortal danger from her husband, Damien (Martin Csokas). Instead, Dwight ends up discovering that there's more to the situation than meets the eye, and he winds up calling upon the vamps of Old Town — led by the leather-clad Gail (Rosario Dawson) and the sword-and-bow-wielding Miho (Jamie Chung) — to help him finish the job.

And Marv is called into action once more for the fim's grand finale — another new entry, entitled Nancy's Last Dance — which partners him up with the long-suffering Nancy, as we bear witness to her dramatic transformation from demure vixen to raven-haired femme fatale. Not only does this story bring apt closure to the film, it brings satisfying closure to Nancy's emotionally-charged arc as well, as she finally works up the courage to avenge the death of her savior — hero cop John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) — by making the man ultimately responsible — Senator Roark — pay.

Also along for the joyride are Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King and more, bringing a heavy dose of Hollywood gloss and glamor to Miller's downright down and dirty narrative, which is otherwise filled with endless lines of hard boiled dialogue and husky voice-over narration — sounding as though they were ripped straight from the pages of a pulpy 1940s novella — and as much R-rated sex and violence as he and Rodriguez can muster for the film's spry 102-minute running time. Make no mistake, this ain't no comic book movie for kids — and if the plentiful scenes of silhouetted heads and limbs being lopped off willy-nilly don't tip you off, then the gratuitous shots lingering on Green's bare skin, glistening under the pale moonlight, surely will.

As for the film's eye-popping 3D post-conversion, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "bringing the comic book to life", enabling the characters — who already seem as if they've literally just leapt off the pages of Miller's comics — to make the dramatic leap off the screen as well.

The Bottom Line Rodriguez and Miller's second on-screen collaboration brims with more booze, more babes and more bullets than ever before. But with nearly a decade separating Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and its groundbreaking predecessor, moviegoers might be left wondering if the sheen has all but worn off. Fortunately, its decadent combination of high-contrast monochromatic visuals punctuated by intense splashes of color remains as potent as ever, as does its melodramatic, noir-inspired brand of storytelling. It's a good thing that partaking in such a sordid cinematic romp doesn't qualify as a genuine sin, otherwise we'd all be going to Hell.  Ben Mk

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