Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Part Dame, part same, part lame
Comic book movies are all the rage these days, which brings a great deal of satisfaction to those of us who knew all along that our beloved four-color adventures would make for fantastic films. However, the popularity of these movies didn’t happen overnight, it was built on the backs of pictures like Superman (‘78), Batman (‘89), Blade (‘98), Spider-Man (2002), and, yes, 2005’s Sin City, which is the closest representation of comic source material actually coming to life on the big screen that there has ever been.
It’s now nine years later and as legendary comic creator Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hits theaters, Marvel Studios, with their kingdom of colorful characters that Miller helped to build, is now the biggest player in the movie world and is apt to overshadow the rebel writer/artist/director’s gritty little vignettes of lust and vengeance set in the noirish world of Basin City. As one of the film’s hard-boiled denizens might say, “Irony can be a cold-hearted b!tch.”
The A Dame to Kill For movie is part the actual Dame storyline, part a rehash of the same material we saw in the last movie, and part lame new material that was never seen in the Sin City comic books (and for good reason.) The good news is that the A Dame to Kill For tale is completely intact and is worth the price of admission on its own. The rest of the film, which is co-directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez, is not nearly as great.
Like the first Sin City, this one has several stories that intertwine and are loosely connected to each other via a couple of the characters. The first up is “Just Another Saturday Night,” which has the unstoppable anti-hero, Marv (Mickey Rourke), waking up next to a wrecked cop car, with dead bodies strewn about, and trying to figure out what the heck happened the night before. It’s a quick and fun introduction to the world of the film, which, of course, is made up of beautiful high-contrast black & white, punctuated with small bits of color now and then (although the use of color is not as artistically disciplined as it was in the first movie.)
Next up is the first part of “The Long Bad Night,” which was written by Miller for this movie. This bit concerns Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a gambler who is on a quest to financially break the corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), but who finds a few of his own bones broken instead. The second part of this story plays out after the A Dame to Kill For portion of the movie and has a fun cameo by Christopher Lloyd.
When Jessica Rabbit said, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way” (see Who Framed Roger Rabbit), she couldn’t hold a candle to Ava Lord. Green enthusiastically and completely embodies the sultry character from the comic – and what a body she has – leaving very little to a fanboy’s (or fangirl’s) imagination.
Josh Brolin plays Dwight McCarthy, who has a history with Ava and finds himself up to his eyeballs in trouble while trying to do her bidding. Marv (Rourke) and Dennis Haysbert as Manute (Ava’s enormous man-servant) are also featured in the Dame storyline, as is Rosario Dawson as Gail and Jamie Chung as deadly little Miho. Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, and Christopher Meloni also have small but fun cameo parts.
The A Dame to Kill For vignette captures the spirit of the original film best and fans of the source material will be thrilled with the result; and move over Rita Hayworth, Eva Green is likely to go down in cinematic history as the greatest seductress ever on screen – she’s that good at being bad.
After the Dame section ends, “The Long Bad Night” picks back up and we learn the fate of Johnny, leaving the last piece, another new story not seen in the comics, “Nancy’s Last Dance,” to close out the film.
Nancy (Jessica Alba), of course, is Nancy Callahan, the stripper with a heart of gold, who is seen on-stage at Katie’s Bar throughout the film. In the Last Dance segment she is haunted by the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis — see the first film) and plans to avenge his death by killing Senator Roark.
With “Nancy’s Last Dance” the film goes off-track and I really don’t understand why this non-comic story was necessary (I’m assuming so that they could work Bruce Willis back into the movie somehow.) The writing and dialogue are weak, and although Alba is awesome to look at, she really cannot act very well. Marv, again, saves this piece with some great action sequences, but, unfortunately, this story ends the film with a mediocre whimper, instead of a deserved bang.
I typically detest 3D movies, but I have to say that this one has some pretty good 3D effects going for it, probably because it doesn’t distract from the already cartoony and bleak nature of the visuals and actually compliments them instead of making the picture look dark and muddy. If you dig 3D, this one will be a treat.
The A Dame to Kill For section of this movie is easily strong enough to make me recommended it (or maybe I’m just being influenced by Ava Lord), but, sadly, the rest of this film, which is from new (non-comic) material, just isn’t up to that same caliber. Grade: 6.5/10
Photos © 2014 Dimension Films