Saturday, 20 December 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Before watching the original Sin City film back in 2005, I was completely unaware what Sin City was and who all the characters were. I went into it cold and loved it. Backed up by a pretty strong cast, I loved the idea of various slightly interconnected tales that were happening across a city. I also loved the harsh black and white look of the film, how certain colours stood out and the fact that it was a comic book adaptation that didn't include superheroes. But while Sin City was an excellent film, this long, long awaited sequel started to worry me as the years went by. Now, after 9 years in development hell, the sequel to Sin City is here. However, does it manage to recapture the lightning in a bottle effect of the original, ore is it just an imitation of greatness? Beware, some spoiler follow.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a film I would have cared more about around 7 years ago. Much like the original, A Dame to Kill For is a collection of short stories from across the city of Sin City. However, it's a little unconventional as it's both a sequel and prequel to the first Sin City. There are 4 stories in total. The first is “Just Another Saturday Night”, and sees the return of Marv, played by Mickey Rourke. It takes place during the events of “That Yellow Bastard”, one of the stories from the first film. Then there's “The Long Bad Night”, a two-part original story that features Joseph Gordon Levitt as Johnny, a lucky gambler who goes up against the wrong guy. Then there's the titular story “A Dame to Kill For”, a prequel to the original Sin City, and stars John Brolin and Eva Green as formers lovers who get tangled up together amidst some pretty shady characters. And finally there's “Nancy's Last Dance”, another original story that picks up where “That Yellow Bastard” left off, and focuses on Jessica Alba's character, Nancy.

Due to the fact that A Dame to Kill For is both a sequel and prequel to the original Sin City, you really do need to watch the first film to know what the hell is going on here. The stories presented here are a mix of the interesting and boring. Though it didn't appear in the Sin City comic books back in the day, the original story that features Joesph Gordon-Levitt is pretty great, despite the fact that it's just an incredible simple revenge tale. Backed up by Powers Boothe who plays Senator Roark, the big bad of this film, it's filled with some great dialogue and superb performances. Then the other stand-out element of the film are some parts of “Nancy's Last Dance”, most notably anything that focuses on Jessica Alba's now destructive Nancy character, and Bruce Willis as the ghost/memory/whatever of dead cop Hartigan. But despite there being some gleams of excellence, A Dame to Kill For just doesn't live up to expectations.

The sad part is that the most disappointing and blandest tale here is “A Dame to Kill For”, which is essentially the centrepiece of the film. Despite featuring a fantastically seductive performance by Eva Green as Ava and a decent one by John Brolin as Dwight, I just found myself completely uninterested in it. Also- and this is where we get to spoilers!- there's one part of this story that I simply can't forgive. This story takes place before the original Sin City, and John Brolin plays Dwight, a role Clive Own played in the first film. But this makes sense, as in the comic book the character of Dwight gets his face reconstructed which makes him look totally different. This also happens in this film, but instead of, you know, him looking like Clive Owen after the surgery, the character is merely John Brolin wearing Clive Owen-like make-up. It's just bizarre, and comes across as lazy in the film-makers lack of attempt to get Clive Owen on board, if even for a cameo.

When the original Sin City came out it looked and felt fresh. The use of CGI was different and interesting, and it played out like nothing I've seen before. So ultimately the problem with A Dame to Kill For is the fact that 9 years after the original it doesn't look that unique any more. They may be using the same techniques as they did 9 years ago, but a lot of this film looks pretty cheap, and falls in line with a lot of Robert Rodriguez's post-Sin City work- digital looking, cheap, fast-tracked garbage. I think that's the main problem here, whereas back in the day both Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez were genuinely exciting artists and visionaries, they've seemingly bought too into their own hype. With clunkers such as The Spirit, Spy Kids, Robocop 3 and Machete sprawled across their CV's, they just don't have it any more. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is worth checking out if you loved the first film, but without the freshness that the original had in 2005, this sequel/prequel often feels dull, tired and boring.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn't a film to kill for and gets a 2/5.


Denis Murphy 

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