Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)
Directed by: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Frank Miller
Starring: Dennis Haysbert, Eva Green, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson
Three stories of crime, violence, lust and corruption play out in the hellish Sin City.
It’s been nine years (nine years!) since the first Sin City blasted in to cinemas. With its unique and striking visuals, hard violence, grizzled protagonists and femme fatales, it was a breath of fresh air and something quite unique and is arguably the most faithful comic book adaptation ever filmed, successfully translating the film’s noir black and white visuals to the screen, punctuated by vibrant splashes of colour, most of it red blood. Unfortunately, nine years is a long time and the once so vibrant and original Sin City now feels a little dated on a return watch. Time has moved on, cinema has moved on, but the Sin City franchise hasn’t so now we are sent back to Sin City where the men speak like they have throat cancer and the women seem to have a terrible allergic reaction to clothing.
With two stories adapted from Miller’s graphic novel and another written especially for the film, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For retreads the same ground that the first did. Marv (Mickey Rourke) is still the heavy violent lunk of meat who wakes up in the aftermath of a violent scene and can’t remember what he did. He kicks off the film with a short section where he kills some rich college kids for burning homeless people. The new story involves Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a successful gambler who ends up at the wrong poker table. When he beats Senator Rourke (Powers Boothe) his luck takes a violent turn for the worse. Dwight McCarthy is back (this time played by Josh Brolin) and he gets called upon by an old flame Ava (Eva Green) who spins him a yarn of abuse, but she may be playing him for her own reasons. Finally, we revisit Nancy (Jessica Alba) the stripper who is eaten up by the death of her saviour Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis). She aims to get revenge on his killer, Senator Rourke.
Not much has changed in Sin City since our last visit, and though what unfolds isn’t necessarily bad, it is dull. Everything is held up by a large and talented cast including Rosario Dawson, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd and Jamie King, but they can’t help it escape from the film’s need to give us more of the same. It would seem Miller has run out of ideas and Rodriguez isn’t offering any new ones. With his recent run of very poor films, it seems Rodriguez needs to take a step back and look at what made his earlier films such fun. The cast all ably play their one dimensional characters, but they don’t have a lot to do with them. New blood Gordon-Levitt and Green slot in well, but he mostly just gets to play cocky and then injured and Green gets to do sultry femme fatale while spending eighty percent of her screen time without any clothes on. It would be nice for all this talent to actually be given something to do but they just get to play out the same motions, but this time on a well-worn track. There are no characters or events that particularly stick in the mind like the original’s Yellow Bastard or mute cannibal Kevin. Everything that happens is perfectly serviceable but completely forgettable. The noir shtick that is a good fit to the black and white visuals and voice over of the comic book, here starts to grate and at sometimes even sounds laughable. The over blown dramatic music is silly, and the whole film doesn’t marry its overblown action with the pretence of serious, gritty noir. The film is all surface with nothing underneath.
Time has not been a friend to the Sin City franchise, what was once new, fun and original has become cliché, aged and dull. If this had been released in 2007, two years after the first, then maybe it might have felt more relevant but it missed its opening. Perhaps fine for a bit of time wasting but you won’t remember it. Here’s hoping we don’t have to visit Sin City again.