/Movie Review – Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Movie Review – Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin-City-A-Dame-To-Kill-For-Review-Logo

– Summary –

Director :   Robert Rodriguez + Frank Miller
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast :  Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Stacey Keach, Jamie King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple, Marton Csokas, Jude Cicollela, Julia Gardner, Lady Gaga, Alexa Vega, Patricia Vonne.
Approx Running Time :   94 Minutes
Synopsis:   Oh, I don’t know. Guns, women, violence and hard-boiled noir scripting; Sin City 2 reprises a lot of the style and material of Frank Miller’s acclaimed comic book saga. If that’s not enough to entice you, this film will offer little to sway you.
What we think :   Amidst the gore, violence and dispiriting narrative inanity, Eva Green shows us her boobs. Come to think of it, so does Rosario Dawson. Joshn Brolin, Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson kick heads. Robert Rodriguez’ misogyny knows no bounds here, as Sin City’s hyper-stylized aesthetic and green-screen fantasmagorica provides a tapestry of glorified sexuality, masculine vengeance and ultimately undemanding shoot-em-up that leaves all but the most hardened fan satisfied. A Dame To Kill For delivers mild entertainment but, after all’s said and done, other than a quick perv there’s little here to remember.

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Eva Green’s Boobs. That is all.

A Dame To Kill For feels more like a highlight reel for a bunch of famous actors than an actual film. Told in the exact same style as Robert Rodriguez’ and Frank Miller’s Sin City (2005), the sequel once more plumbs the depths of human depravity, revenge, sex and violence as a plethora of Hollywood’s A-listers snag bit-parts in the latest soupcon of pulp noir fiction dreamed up by comic book maestro Frank Miller. Sin City’s blast of fresh air approach to the genre, comic book movie mixed with cutting edge technology, and a visual aesthetic that slammed audiences for six, making a sequel an event to savor – if it ever arrived. Nearly a decade later, A Dame To Kill For’s familiar black-and-white look and hot-blooded narrative soaks up the screen, audience favor, and momentary attention in the chase for more misogyny and violence. Watching talent like Jessica Alba, Eva Green, and Rosario Dawson slut themselves up for a story so mildly diverting is either disappointing or voyeuristic – or both – and as much as Rodriguez and Co deliver a ribald, raunchy, rip-roaring action flick, in the end things just don’t work like they should. Perhaps it’s a film that proves the old adage: you can’t go back.

I'm back. And still in black and white.
I’m back. And still in black and white.

In the Projects, deep in the bowels of Sin City, crime, betrayal, sex and violence rule. Marv (Mickey Rourke), finds himself in the swirl of a series of subplots involving a corrupt US senator, Roark (Powers Boothe), the senator’s illigitimate son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who has an amazing ability to win at gambling, the diabolically seductive Ava Lord (Eva Green) and her love-hate relationship with Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), as well as a couple of local Detectives (Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven), and the vengeful Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), who seeks revenge for her dead love Hartigan (a ghostly Bruce Willis), murdered by Roark. Along the way, Marv meets the avenging angel Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her crew of fellow femme fatales (including Alexa Vega and Jamie Chung), while Dwight saves a local hooker (Juno Temple) from nearly being killed at the hands of her businessman boyfriend (Ray Liotta).

Beauty and the beast....
Beauty and the beast….

Sequels can be a tricky business, and understandably have had a long, checkered history within the medium of film. Often, a sequel will simply try and reprise either the same characters, or a similar story, or even just a similar setting, as the original film, more often to the detriment of the potential franchise than for any modicum of success. Usually, a sequel’s success (or failure) relies on a number of things: keeping the story fresh while balancing a sense of familiarity, having at least a few of the original cast reprise their roles, and obviously (but not importantly) keep the same guys making the sequel as the original. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For not only hits all those rules with thunderous ferocity, it obliterates them with salacious, sexy, occasionally sadistic glee from one of the modern masters of B-movie shock-jockery, Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who partnered with Frank Miller for the original Sin City, return to the violent, bloody streets of the most famous noir setting in the last decade to bring us more of the same, told the same way, with many of the same cast. Thing is, where A Dame To Kill For should work almost in spite of itself, things don’t mix and click here as the original did back in 2005.

Money talks.
Money talks.

A Dame To Kill For is led by three people: Mickey Rourke as fan favorite character Marv, the dude with a face like a bashed crustacean, Josh Brolin as Dwight (played by Clive Owen in the first film), who tangles with the cruel, sexy and white-hot Eva Green, as Ava Lord, whose plan to become an independent woman and rise above the lure of the city’s depravity inspires her to betray, betray, betray. Sure, solid casting in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Haysbert (as a monolithic bodyguard for Ava) and a snarling, malevolent Powers Boothe (damn, it’s great to see him soaking this muck up!), as well as returnees in Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson (who has the most astonishing bustier once again – hubba hubba!) and a fairly benign Bruce Willis (who only appears as a hallucination of his previous character, John Hartigan), add grist to the mix of blood and violence, but it’s Green, Brolin and Rourke who salvage this film from being an utter mess. This Dame is a hot mess, because its narrative hurly-burly and monochromatic visual palette lack the same punch and visceral, gotcha-style impact of the original movie, and midway through the onslaught of murder, death and brutal bodily disfigurement (one character has his hand ruined by a pair of pliers, while another has an eyeball ripped from its socket – not to mention the copious death-by-arrow moments abounding in this one – make A Dame To Kill For hugely violent to the point of whitewash) you kinda get the feeling the entire enterprise is all for nothing other than the sake of its own existence.

Talk about gettin' yer guns out!
Talk about gettin’ yer guns out!

Robert Rodriguez is definitely a director with a distinct style. The enterprising filmmaker has carved a niche career delivering some highbrow concepts with pulpy, l0w-fi visuals and unique, edgy-slash-derivative tone to become a contemporary of directors like Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky, both of whom can be identified largely through the style of their movies. While he might lack the verbal dexterity of Tarantino, or the “what the f@ck did I just watch” ballsiness of Aronofsky, Rodriguez enables audiences zeal through capturing the zeitgeist of D-grade style with A-grade money – his films routinely depict the lowest of humanity, the most violent, sexual or depraved, usually featuring plenty of gunplay (obviously, the Spy Kids franchise should have used more violence and sex, right?) and it’s this muckity-muck formula which has worked for him since he burst onto the scene with El Mariachi. A Dame To Kill For also sees the return of Frank Miller to the director’s chair, after co-directing Sin City, as well as the fairly awful The Spirit. Miller, known for his prickly response to people filming his comic books (which is why he chose to co-direct Sin City, as well as the sequel), “gets” this material better than almost anyone else, and while A Dame To Kill For lacks the same punch and raw visceral-ness of its predecessor, you can still feel Miller’s fingerprints all over this.

Dang, she's hiding her boobs behind his head....
Dang, she’s hiding her boobs behind his head….

The film skates on its sex and violence – Eva Green spends a great deal of the film naked (which is a particular highlight), making her nude scene in the similarly produced 300: Rise Of An Empire pale by comparison, while Mickey Rourke reprises his Marv character with the same physicality and mannerisms, if not entirely the same high-point of character development. Josh Brolin actually elevates his slipshod material with a brooding, menacing performance as Dwight, who starts the film desperately in love with Green’s Ava Lord, but who is eventually betrayed by her. The three central characters have zero emotional content, however, thanks to the incredibly stylized way the film is made and written; we’re told Dwight loves Ava, finds her desperately attractive to the point where it blinds him to any betrayal, but the character doesn’t ever display this in anything other than a glare and a grimace. It’s the style of film, yes, but the audience cannot access the characters since they’re entirely generic and/or cold as ice. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s gambling lackluster character is a blip on the radar of this one, a fairly interesting invention who traverses a trajectory so obtusely written it kinda annoyed me, while Jessica Alba’s vengeful Nancy doesn’t quite feel as fluid or organic to this movie as she was in the original.

Oh, it's like THAT is is?
Oh, it’s like THAT is is?

Far and away the most charismatic character on the screen is Powers Boothe’s Senator Rourk, a despicable, violent, sadistic sonna-bitch who looms large over almost all aspects of this movie. He’s the chief villain, really, in spite of Ava Lord’s green-eyed siren-call for your attention, and Boothe plays it superbly. The only other film I remember him being in was Van Damme’s Sudden Death, and I recall that role being particularly hammy, so I’m pleased to see he’s returned to the screen in a big way as this cruel, enigmatic yet deadly power-broker. It’s a shame the rest of the film is filled with people so unlikeable, or unmemorable, or plain stupid.

Ahh, the old "golden eye in the skull" villain again....
Ahh, the old “golden eye in the skull” villain again….

A Dame To Kill For blows its load early, and the rest is all just pillow-talk. Violent excess for the sake of it works as long as the characters are interesting, or the story particularly riveting, and in this film neither of these things are true. Rodriguez’ verbose directorial style is in full swing again (much like Machete Kills, A Dame To Kill For is filled with gratuity and money-shot cool-factor, but comes unglued well before the closing credits), and the cast reads like a who’s who of Hollywood’s currently hot talent (except Bruce Willis, who brings absolutely nothing to his small cameo role as the ghost of Hartigan – the dude should simply just give up now and stop making movies!), yet for all the audience congratulatory wankery, A Dame To Kill For stumbles, fumbles, grumbles and simply blinks out of existence without so much as a whimper. Supposed shocks lack fulfillment, twists lack completion, and the film feels like it’s achieving nothing new, only riding on the coattails of its far superior predecessor. A Dame To Kill For isn’t a film to kill for.

5-Star

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Normally detesting these kinds of bios, Rodney's keen love of film more often outclasses his ability to write convincingly about them. Never blessed with a body worthy of a porn star, nor being the heir to a wealthy industrialists fortune, nor suffering the tragedy of having his parents murdered outside a Gotham theater, Rodney is, contrary to popular opinion, neither Ron Jeremy, JD Rockefeller, or Batman. As a serious appreciator of film since 1996, Rodney's love affair with the medium has continued with his online blog, Fernby Films, a facility allowing him to communicate with fellow cineasts in their mutual love of all things movie.