Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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Release: Friday, August 22, 2014

[Theater]

Okay so there apparently is a major self-destructive streak in me, for I went to see the purportedly ill-advised Sin City sequel and walked out a happy customer. Perhaps more so than I rightfully should have been, too.

Has it really been ten years since the last time we wallowed in the streets of Frank Miller’s sick and twisted imagination? (Actually, it’s been nine but who’s counting?) Point being, its enough time for a follow-up film to be rolled out to the sound of crickets chirping. Moderate fans of the first have all but forgotten that there ever were plans on revisiting this place. Diehards likely even struggled to maintain a reasonable level of optimism. Everyone else simply went about their lives.

See, these aren’t the kinds of films that really move the viewer. And A Dame to Kill For had no intention of changing that, but in a twist of irony it kind of did. It moved people to the point of total disinterest. I had five people in my screening on opening night. Five, myself included. And I didn’t go to the crappy theater at the mall this time, either. Grossing a measly $6.4 million over the weekend (approximately $22 million less than its predecessor), one of its competitors that was already three weeks into its own theatrical run, Guardians of the Galaxy, perhaps snatched that up within a couple of showings over that weekend alone.

I suppose me going on to say that Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is back but only for a paycheck won’t help anyone still on the fence about seeing this. Sure, Bruce’s here, but he’s literally in the background. Instead we get a new group of desperados born and bred in the filth of two of Miller’s graphic novels. He, along with returning director Robert Rodriguez, merges the titular novel with one called Just Another Saturday Night, along with two new stories created solely for the film. We first stumble upon a returning hard-man in Mickey Rourke’s battered and bruised Marv, who is seen picking himself up in the wake of a car crash. He starts recounting the last things he remembers and what brought him to this new low point. This part represents the second of two graphic novels used for the story.

Then, some new blood. Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears out of the blue (okay, the black-and-white) as a cocky but composed card player whose good fortune seems to know no bounds. Unfortunately, neither does his ego as he pits himself against one of the most ruthless scoundrels in all of Basin City — the one and only Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe). The Senator is back and more ruthless than ever, making it his personal mission to track down Johnny and reclaiming the money he “stole” at the game. Yeah, it doesn’t end well for Johnny.

And finally we come to the third main thread in Josh Brolin’s Dwight (played by Clive Owen in 2005), a man with a horrific past now doing his best to stay sober. That is, until the titular Dame comes into the picture, tempting Dwight back into a life he thought he had successfully gotten out of. Eva Green in this film doesn’t fit the description of ‘femme fatale;’ she doesn’t even epitomize it. She’s something else entirely, and it’s terrifying. (Well, I say ‘terrifying;’ others might have another word for it.) Macro-psychotic? Sexy? What?

Let’s actually talk about that for a second. How does A Dame to Kill For compare in its thematic presentation? If you recall, the day Sin City was released wasn’t exactly a red letter day for actresses the world over. Violent, sloppy and misogynistic to a fault, the movie indulged in sequences that had Jessica Alba’s hips gyrating, Rosario Dawson cleavage-ing, Devon Aoki compensating for her looks by just being a raging lunatic. But back then the over-the-top toplessness was. . .and forgive me for saying this. . .unique to the production design. The sheer lack of boundaries in terms of violence and sexuality contributed to the experience that was a solid graphic novel adaptation. Fast-forward nine years and the fact that Eva Green spends 90% of her scenes naked just comes across as sleazy and lazy.

Fortunately Nancy Carrigan’s story has an ever-so-slight silver lining to her dark cloud. Slipping into despair, the concubine chops her hair, mars her face with shards of glass (if women aren’t going to be sexy, they may as well destroy those useless good-looks, right?) and ultimately abandons her post dancing at the bar. Thank goodness. She makes moves to overcome her own personal hell, following Hartigan’s selfish act of suicide. Nancy then decides to partner up with Marv, who similarly has seen enough of this dirty old town.

Audiences clearly have already reached that threshold. But in the same way I find Rodriguez’ and Miller’s need to overcompensate for truly original storytelling with even more sexually explicit imagery and brutal violence an act of desperation (watch for an amusing cameo from All-State insurance guy Dennis Haysbert as Manute. . .and what happens to his poor eyeball), I view the mass amount of negativity heaped upon this release similarly desperate.

No, this is not Frank Miller’s Sin City, but it’s the next logical step and it is still a Frank Miller creation. It’s just too bad those who cared enough had to wait this long. There’s something to be said for the amount of power this trio of stories has likely lost after nearly a decade laying in wait.

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3-0Recommendation: An all-around consistent film in terms of appealing to its uniquely deranged fan base, A Dame to Kill For steps up the intensity of its thematic elements in an attempt to draw in fringes of a general interest audience. It may have failed in that regard, but for returning customers there’s enough to like here to warrant a ticket purchase, if not then definitely a rental at some point. On the other hand, if there was anything that put you off in Sin City, you probably could avoid this.

Rated: R

Running Time: 102 mins.

Quoted: “Never lose control, never let the monster out.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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17 thoughts on “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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  3. Brilliant review Tom, I recently watched the first one again and reviewed it if you’re interested. I’m definitely gonna watch this film so I can give my thoughts on it.

    • Cheers Mutant!!!!! Yes, yes I’ve always said there’s no need to go for shot #3 when shots #1-2 almost made u puke. 🙂 Lol!!! This is a movie I was surprised I enjoyed because of the amount of backlash or general disinterest surrounding it.

  4. Man, this has divided audiences. There are those who loved the first movie and hated this. Probably reflects in it’s box office. It had a very short release here in the UK; kind of came and went which is why I missed it.

    • It certainly has divided audiences. Though I can’t understand why people who loved the first didn’t at least dig the vibes this one was putting out. They can think one is superior to the other, sure, but there’s no denying that these two are essentially the same movie. Which is really my big issue with it. This one kind of comes across a bit lazy, but it’s still entertaining in its own way. I’d say there’s no real rush to check this out, though. A rental will do you just fine if you still have interest later on. 😀

  5. I haven’t seen this yet but your review has got me thinking I should give it a go despite the lack of public interest and the bad reviews elsewhere. I’ll probably wait for the stream or DVD though. Nice work.

    • Hey there Stu, thanks! I mean ultimately it’s always up to the viewer to see or not see something but in my humble opinion the critical backlash against this is far from warranted. There’s definitely weaknesses but I was a fan of Sin City and nothing about that has changed here. 🙂

  6. Eva Green is such a…

    …She is…

    …I love that woman.

    …for some reason, I have not seen this yet. I’m sorry babe! I will be seeing you in action soon Eva.

    (Glad to see a positive review of this)

    • Then you, sir, are in luck because this has all the qualities of the Sin City comic-book atmosphere going for it as well. The stories are a tad weaker and overly familiar and I do have some issues with the over-the-top misogyny, but all in all A Dame to Kill For is good fun.

    • It’s wayyyy style over substance hahah! That’s what Frank Miller’s tale about Basin City is all about, but if that doesn’t hook you, then yes. You should perhaps save those $10. Wait. You don’t use dollars do you?

      Save the ten quid. 😉

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