John Villarose VI
In 2005, Frank Miller’s “Sin City”, based on the graphic novel of the same name, shocked critics and audiences alike with the way it flawlessly transferred the unique comic book style to film. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, written and directed by the same people, serves not so much as a sequel to the original, but an add-on, in a number of ways.
“A Dame to Kill For”, like its predecessor, is broken into a few fragmented segments: “Just Another Saturday Night,” “The Long Bad Night,” “A Dame to Kill For” and “Nancy’s Last Dance.” Each segment features unique, contained storylines with different stars but overlapping settings and supporting characters. The concept may seem jarring, but 2005’s “Sin City” showed that, under the right direction, the fragmented stories can be just as gripping as full-length pictures. The stories in A Dame to Kill For mostly occur both before and after the events of the original Sin City, with the time periods of each varying.
Everything about “A Dame to Kill For For” spelled success. Like the first film, the second is written by the comic’s creator Frank Miller, and co-directed by both him and star director Robert Rodriquez, famous for films such as From Dusk till Dawn, Spy Kids and Machete. The film features an all-star cast, including Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Eva Green and the list goes on. Fan favorite characters, such as Bruce Willis’ John Hartigan, even make guest appearances, returning from the first film.
One of the things that sets the “Sin City” franchise apart is its unique art style, in which the majority of the film is shot in black and white, with certain features highlighted in color, typically either red or yellow. These can be anything from lipstick, to cars, to entire people in special instances. These visuals are used to great effect, making the movie a spectacle. For instance, one brief scene features a police chase, with the action being highlighted by the movement of the flashing red and blue lights. The comic-style art of the film is almost reason enough to make it worth watching on its own.
That being said, there’s quite a bit holding the film back. It largely feels like an add-on, giving viewers more of what they liked initially, but very little extra. Unlike the original, “A Dame to Kill For” doesn’t really stand on its own, relying on hype over the first film to hold it together.
This film definitely doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times it’s a great reference to film noir, with its lighting effects and the excellent use of the femme fatale, especially in regards to Eva Green’s conveniently named character, Ava Lord. Yet some aspects of noir are exaggerated, such as the constant use of dull narration. “Sin City” has always been an over-the-top series, but at times, “A Dame to Kill For” simply takes itself too seriously, leaving an uncomfortable mix of both intentional and unintentional ridiculousness.
An array of unique characters is a necessity to this film. Both the stars and supporting characters can be memorable, but far too often they fall into stereotypes. The worst example is Josh Brolin’s Dwight McCarthy, whose grizzled demeanor feels like a wannabe Humphrey Bogart, with a little Batman growl thrown in. I found myself not caring about his rather predictable story, which is a huge shame, as his was the title story, “A Dame to Kill For,” and also the centerpiece of the film. Gordon-Levitt, however, served as the most compelling protagonist of the film: a young, cocky man with too much luck for his own good. Similarly, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Lloyd shined in their brief, but thoroughly enjoyable, roles.
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” isn’t going to change the minds of anyone who didn’t like the first. For fans of the series, it should serve as a welcome return to the series after nearly a decade. It might not hold up over time like its predecessor has, but the cast of characters and the still-magnificent style may make it worth a watch.