Friday, August 29, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

**1/2 out of ****

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a sequel made by popular demand. The results are generally underwhelming despite the fact that it’s everything one should expect. In 2004, when Robert Rodriguez brought legendary comic book artist Frank Miller’s famous graphic novel series to the big screen - with Miller’s input as co-director - several things were notably accomplished:

Rodriguez continued his legacy as a maverick filmmaker working with a limited amount of money while utilizing new digital moviemaking tools to great effect. While Batman Begins was a couple months away from showing everyone the most realistic take on a comic book, Sin City took inspiration from 1990’s Dick Tracy, creating the ultimate surrealistic movie based on a comic book. Above all, we were reminded by a mostly colorless movie, that black and white is beautiful. 

The last movie took three of Miller’s books and created an anthology movie, like Heavy Metal. All the books take place in the same universe, and the stories often intersect. This time around, according to the title, the movie was fully committed to only one of these books; a fan-favorite, A Dame to Kill For.

For those unfamiliar, Frank Miller’s creation is a perverted dark fantasy inspired by film-noir, glorifying violence with heavy doses of misogyny. All this would be objectionable to me, if it weren’t so removed from reality. The stylized gun violence, bloodletting and aggressive sex is cartoonish to the point of laugh-inspiring juvenile eye-candy. I enjoy it. Especially with some beer and greasy food. Rodriguez doesn’t make sincere cinema, he makes fun trash, which walks the line between sensational escapism and parody.

A Dame to Kill For follows a prowling private detective named Dwight McCarthy, played in this film by Josh Brolin, who gets pulled into the schemes of a seductive femme fatale, played by Eva Green. A great amount of the film, features this beautiful actress nude in some of the most creatively lit shots -especially the ones involving the emergence of a body from water in very high-contrast black and white.

This story seems as polished as the previous film’s three stories and yet it lacks the same punch. Regarding sequel continuity, this one is weakened by some unfortunate recasting. Dennis Haysbert replaces the late Michael Clarke Duncan's Manute, competently -but man, do I miss Duncan. What really hurts this sequel is the lack of Clive Owen, whose face was a pretty essential role to tie the movies together.

The ultimate weakness of the new movie is a newly created story that acts as an irrelevant arc. It begins interestingly with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young reckless gambler with a miscalculated plan. Unfortunately, this story is preoccupied with the terrible continuation of Jessica Alba’s Nancy Callahan, a stripper hell-bent on revenge. Mickey Rourke's Marv is a welcome return but his involvement in Nancy's story throws the entire Sin City chronology out of whack.

Still, I can say that I enjoyed this encore as late-night guilty pleasure fun, but not enough to give it a big recommendation. After a near decade since its predecessor, it has little to offer that feels fresh.

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