Frank Miller is the author of some of the best graphic novels out there. He’s written Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns, 300, and Batman: Year One. He’s certainly got some demons that he lets out on the page and while his work doesn’t appeal to everyone, they certainly make for interesting reads. They’re all very dark take son characters and humanity, which could prove for some really intriguing films, right? Maybe he was on to something the first time around, but this second Sin City effort isn’t his greatest work. Still, check out the aforementioned graphic novels, because they really are something else.
In Sin City, violence, government corruption, and murder happen regularly and are an accepted part of life. Dwight (Josh Brolin) is a man who seems to have lost his way, unsure of what he’s really living for. That is, until Ava (Eva Green) gives him a call and brings herself back in to his life. The two meet, rekindle a lost love, and are just as easily separated by Manute (Dennis Haysbert), a man who works for Ava’s new husband. In efforts to get her back, Dwight enlists the help of the monstrous Marv (Mickey Rourke) to do some damage. Little do they know, that Ava is a master seductress and plays all the men she comes in contact with.
Concurrently, a young gambler named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) rolls into town and he simply can’t lose. He’s skilled. quick, and cockier than anyone else around. While it may seem like a good front, it could prove dangerous when he decides to hustle Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the most powerful man in the city. While Johnny might not want Roark dead, dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) does for leading her husband Hartigan (Bruce Willis) to kill himself. The only thing Nancy has on her side is her new-found ability to shoot a gun and Marv as her bodyguard. There’s no telling how each person is going to end up, but it ain’t going to be pretty, given that they reside in Sin City.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a stylistic mess in the most creative of forms. I’m no doubt a fan of the Sin City graphic novels and their unique approach to telling grisly stories and while the first film was a surprising success, this film doesn’t quite translate as well from the pages to the big-screen. I do applaud the effort to keep dialogue, imagery, and presentation in the form of the comic. Still, it’s a film with a ton of moving pieces that always ensures some entertainment to be had, though entertainment varies depending on what you’ll find enjoyable in a film that’s pretty glum.
Robert Rodriguez employs a lot of incredible visual effects in this film and it’s the sights and sounds that really pay off. The contrasting Black & White and the minimal uses of color are played with wonderfully, as they emphasize key aspects of the stories and characters involved. When we’re not being gifted with some beautiful color clashes, the film seamlessly transitions between the real-world and that of a comic world in its depiction of certain events. It may come across as goofy at first, but it’s an odd style that just works well, amid all the chaos and darkness in the film. It highlights the characters motivations and allows for the portrayal of things that aren’t entirely possible in the world we live in.
Each performance in the film allows the actor/actress the ability to shine in a role that they can play fairly convincingly. Most notably, Eva Green works wonders as a sinister seductress that toys with the hearts of men, right before she coldly rips them out. Joseph-Gordon Levitt’s cocky character lets him have some fun, which also gets him into some sticky situations. Josh Brolin and an unrecognizable Mickey Rourke use their darker sides to make men fear them, but they’re more than just badasses. Dennis Haysbert and Jessica Alba aren’t as heavily involved, but they serve their purposes and do a damn fine job. This half of the cast holds their own in this muddled film, but it’s the other half that I’m more concerned about.
With names like Lady Gaga, Ray Liota, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, and Rosario Dawson, you’d think that you’d be treated to some wonderful characters. Instead, you’re left with half-a-dozen throw-away characters that really don’t serve much of a purpose in this film, other than to help someone, or emphasize an aspect of Sin City. While some have more screen time than others, they still all feel expendable and didn’t really do anything for me. They’re all fine actors and actresses, I just wish that they hadn’t been completely wasted.
More than anything, I was really annoyed with the editing in this film, as the stories have little in common, yet they’re all intertwined by the director. The film jumps from one story to the next, spending a short amount of time with one and then an extended period of time with another. You’ll forget that certain characters exist in this film, until you’re reintroduced to them at the most random of times. On their own, the three main stories could work well as short films. Each has their own things to say about humanity and the degradation of man’s morals, but they’re all presented in a cluttered mess. To be perfectly honest, none of the segments are particularly fun, but they do have their moments of entertainment and allow for some actors/actresses to shine.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For works in the way of style and presentation, but fails to capitalize on all the talent and stories that it has to offer. There was a lot to live up to in terms of its predecessor’s massive praise and it just couldn’t hack it. Frank Miller has written painfully truthful and dark stories about human nature and the unfortunate realities that may occur in life, but they proved harder to tell this time around and the film suffers greatly because of that. While the performances and style of direction may add some appeal, I still don’t see myself ever revisiting this film in the near future. If you’re looking for more of the same, but done far better, check out the first film instead.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Trailer