Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Notable Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, Juno Temple, Jamie Chung, Lady Gaga

“Looks like Christmas.” –Marv

A part of me feels a bit bad for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Almost a decade after the original wowed and wooed audiences with its ‘ripped from the pages’ visual style and over the top grindhouse quirkiness, this film was almost destined for failure. Ten years is too long and the hype has since worn down as others films took the same concepts and went to new places with them. Match that with the faltering career of cult director Robert Rodriguez who has seen each of his films and/or franchise crumble over time and Sin City 2 was almost bound to fail. A little over $6 million on opening weekend simply proved it. While I still enjoyed my second trip to Basin City in a sort of B-movie way, word of mouth is not going to be pretty for this film either as it feels rushed, flat, and not nearly as charming.

Sin City has always been a boiling pot of corruption, violence, and sex. For a group of its citizens like gambler Johnny (Levitt), maniac Marv (Rourke), the disgruntled Nancy (Alba), or love drunk Dwight (Brolin), it’s a place where their talents can find a way to be used…and when its against some of the more powerful villains of the city like Lord (Green) or Roarke (Booth) then it might just turn brutal.

Poor Nancy.
For a film that took almost a decade to be released, A Dame to Kill For certainly felt rushed. At times it even felt like it might have been a straight to home video sequel to the dynamic original. It’s inferior in every aspect to the original one. The visuals are pretty up to par, but the film tends to almost play it safer this time around in how it uses them; lacking the thoughtful juxtaposition between the blacks, whites, and colors that I would have expected. Perhaps the awe of the style has simply worn thin in the time between the films. Truthfully though, the visuals are still probably the best part of this film and they really do work to pull the audience into the world of Sin City.

The main reason that A Dame to Kill For stumbles out of the gate is the much weaker script. When it kicked off with a brief intro story featuring Mickey Rourke as the iconic Marv from the first film (who actually makes an appearance in every story in the film, which sort of left me baffled to the timing of the stories compared to his fate in Sin City) one could already tell it was going to be rough going. Despite a slew of brilliant actors, the blend of extensive voice over narration and character beats inherently lacks the charm and pacing that would have made this film work. By the time we get to the different stories that wrap around one another, the stumbling structure doesn’t help matters either and the film lacks punch and pace to accomplish any kind of flow. Too much of the plot progressions feel forced and too many of the characters lack the subtle depth to their extreme exteriors. The one exception to this is the character Johnny, played with contagious charisma by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose original story plays out with relative ease and ends on a rather bitter sweet moment. Outside of that (and perhaps the scene eating abilites of Powers Boothe as the villain), the rest falls flat. How could an intriguing character like Dwight, played by Clive Owen in the first film, become such a lackluster caricature in this one? Especially with Josh Brolin?

Best surprise of the film: Christopher Lloyd!
While I still had a fair amount of fun diving back into the neo-noir world of Sin City with its vicious over the top violence and fruity one liners, the entire experience felt forced and rushed. Certain characters felt plugged in (Bruce Willis should have never spoken…it would have been a stronger punch) and even the stronger elements like Eva Green as the titular villain seem to drown in the stuttering structure. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller must have felt it was necessary to make up for her lack of charisma onscreen with Josh Brolin by just making her nude 90% of the time. It’s choices like this that make A Dame to Kill For a massive disappointment – one of the biggest of the year. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider


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