US Release Date: 08-22-2014
Directed by: Frank Miller & Robert Rodriguez
- Mickey Rourke, as
- Jessica Alba, as
- Josh Brolin, as
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as
- Rosario Dawson, as
- Bruce Willis, as
- Eva Green, as
- Powers Boothe, as
- Senator Roark
- Dennis Haysbert, as
- Ray Liotta, as
- Christopher Meloni, as
- Jeremy Piven, as
- Christopher Lloyd, as
- Jaime King, as
- Goldie / Wendy
- Juno Temple, as
- Stacy Keach, as
- Marton Csokas, as
- Damien Lord
- Jude Ciccolella, as
- Lt. Liebowitz
- Jamie Chung, as
- Julia Garner, as
- Lady Gaga, as
- Alexa PenaVega, as
- Patricia Vonne as
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
Nine years after the release of Sin City comes this sequel/prequel. Like the first, it is written by Frank Miller, adapted from his graphic novels, and directed by he and Robert Rodriguez. Together, Miller and Rodriguez create another highly stylized, mostly black and white, comic book noir that is a world like no other. The plot tropes and conventions are straight out of an old film noir, while the visuals, violence and nudity give it a modern spin.
The plot is several different stories intertwined, with some characters and locations appearing in several of them. All of them are set in Sin City, the nickname for Basin City, which feels like an Art Deco New York City set on the West Coast. It's a dark place where it seems to be perpetually night, almost always raining, and where the characters spend lots of time in back alleys, cheap hotel rooms and saloons. The kind of place, as Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) puts it, "where you go in with your eyes open, or you don't come out at all."
Most of the film takes place prior to the events of the first Sin City. This allows Mickey Rourke's Marv to play a large part, even though he died in the electric chair in that earlier film. He's still an unstoppable tank with memory and anger issues. He appears in all of the stories, playing a major part in some and just briefly in others. He helps Dwight (Josh Brolin) rescue the dame to kill for of the title, played by Eva Green, who, in the manner typical of femme fatales of film noir, isn't all that she seems. He also helps Nancy (Jessica Alba) get revenge against Senator Roark for the death of Hartigan (Willis) in the first film. Willis makes a return as a ghostly figure who haunts young Nancy. In the film's other story, Marv makes merely a cameo, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Johnny, a lucky young gambler out to prove himself in Sin City, but he soon gets in over his head.
Although Marv remains an entertaining character, it's a couple of the new faces who steal the show. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is terrific as the cocky young Johnny. All of the main characters end up narrating parts of their story and the dialogue is as stylized as the visuals. It takes a certain kind of commitment to really sell it and Gordon-Levitt is particularly good at it. Eva Green as Ava, is the other new face who steals scenes, although in her case, it's not just her face doing the stealing. She spends most of her scenes naked and Rodriguez and Miller show off her curves with great style. She's a deadly dame, using her body and femininity to wrap the male characters around her pretty little fingers.
Josh Brolin plays Dwight, who was played by Clive Owen in the first film. The difference in their looks is explained by plastic surgery. In fact, Owen was supposed to show up at the end of the film, after the surgery, but was busy filming another movie and so Brolin is made up rather unsuccessfully to look like Owen instead. Dwight's story is the longest in the film, but Brolin's version of him is rather dull, lacking the spark of charisma that Owen brought to the part.
Like Brolin, Jessica Alba's story seems lacking as well. She certainly looks good, but Alba isn't very convincing as the good girl gone bad. The one driving herself insane with a lust for revenge. Even at her darkest, she still comes across too clean and too pretty.
Along with the main cast, many famous faces pop up in small roles. Ray Liotta, Stacy Keach, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Juno Temple and perhaps most bizarrely, Lady Gaga, all show up in cameo appearances. Although it's interesting to see them, all of these cameos become a little disconcerting and have the effect of taking you out of the story at times, becoming almost a game of "spot the celebrity".
Like most sequels this one is weaker than the original. Perhaps it's just that being the sequel, we've seen some of this before and maybe it's that the different story threads here don't seem as tightly woven, with some of them introducing different characters who then have nothing to do with the rest of the story, like the disfigured character played by Stacy Keach, or the murdering philanderer played by Ray Liotta. These guys add color to the background, but not much to the story. Still, although this sequel may not be as fresh as the original, if you enjoyed that first installment then you're bound to find plenty of things to like here.
Eva Green in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is quite similar to the first Sin City. As my brother wrote, if you enjoyed that movie you will most likely enjoy this one too (or perhaps not). In fact A Dame to Kill For is so true to the original in visuals, plot, and spirit that it's nearly impossible to tell almost a decade has passed between the films. The big question now is why -if this movie so successfully duplicates the first one- which I loved, did I not enjoy this movie more? The short answer is, while the world of Sin City has remained the same, my tastes have not.
Visually this is a well made film. The highly stylized black and white cinematography, with its occasional splash of color, looks like the pages of a graphic novel sprung to life. This combination of 1940's film noir with modern day video game ultra-violence caught me by surprise in 2005. It seemed fresh and I was blinded by the sheer beauty and audacity of it. But now in 2014 I suddenly see how soulless and empty it all is. All flash and no substance, designed to appeal to the hormone-raging 14 year old in each of us but with no real subtext.
Judging by its decidedly lackluster box office results, I'm not alone in this regard. The American zeitgeist has moved on. The slick violence of Sin City, where life is cheap and sex often deadly, now seems almost embarrassing, when it's not inspiring unintentional chuckling. Marv slitting that frat boy's throat is an example of the former, while Jessica Alba cutting her own face with pieces of a broken mirror is the latter. Like Scott, I never took her stripper-seeking-revenge seriously.
Also like my brother, I thought Eva Green was the best thing in the movie. She goes from damsel in distress, to classic femme fatale, to raging psychopath without missing a beat. The movie's greatest asset is watching her toy with every man she meets. This vamp destroys more men than Theda Bara in A Fool There Was. The look of surprise on her face when she comes up against the fact that even her pussy has its limitations is priceless.
As far as prequels/sequels go Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a worthy followup to the original. That's both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness. If you want a movie that's a visceral thrill-ride but only skin deep in content, look no further. For a complex adult story with characters to invest in emotionally, look elsewhere.
Eva Green and Josh Brolin in Sin City 2
Agreeing with my brothers, Eva Green as Ava is the best this movie has to offer. She is reminiscent of Catherine Tramell and Gilda. Ava uses her sexuality to manipulate men around her to do her bidding. She makes men love her to the point that they cannot see straight.
We learn, without much detail, that Ava and Dwight were once an item, until Ava found a rich man to marry. She broke Dwight’s heart but he never stopped loving her. As Dwight narrates, “She owns me. Body and soul.” When Ava wants something from Dwight, she knows exactly what to do. She tells Dwight, “I knew I could count on you. Sex always made you stupid, ready to believe anything.”
The story line of Ava and Dwight is the best the film has to offer. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt but his story line comes out of nowhere and goes as it came. Jessica Alba is again hot as Nancy but her story seems merely like an addition to connect it to the first film. Neither of their story lines can compete with that of Ava and Dwight.
Eva Green makes for a memorable femme fatal. She is gorgeous yet hopelessly ruthless. It also helps that she is nude for much of her screen time. Josh Brolin is also good as a private detective. His deep throated narration is film noir suave, “She glides out of her coat like it was Christmas wrapping.” And “She’s late like she always was. And like always. She’s worth the wait.” Are a couple of his best. After getting kicked in the genitals, he describes the pain as, “An atom bomb goes off between my legs.”
Ava makes men fall in love with her for her gain. She cares not what happens to the men she influences, just as long as she gets what she wants. Dwight knows fully well she is dangerous and can easily control him, but so great is his desire for her that he allows himself to be misled. The entire film should have focused solely on these two and their dangerous game of sex, love, manipulation and murder.
Photos © Copyright The Weinstein Company (2014)