Thursday, 4 September 2014
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller // 2014 // 102 mins
With stories taking place both before and in between the events of its 2005 predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For reunites us with the likes of Marv, Dwight and Nancy as they struggle get by in a city filled with corruption and danger.
The striking monochromatic palette that made the first film so exciting and unique is back and just as beautiful, taking cues from it's noir heritage and cranking up the contrast. The problem with such a distinctive style is that the risks of it feeling gimmicky or tired a second time around are high, and unfortunately A Dame to Kill For doesn't really do anything new with the technique to keep it feeling fresh. For the most part it is still a stunning piece of cinema - the chiaroscuro effect invokes the noir tone wonderfully and the splashes of colour are surprisingly used with restraint - though occasionally CGI is used a bit too heavily in realising the action sequences, which results in ugly and distracting compositions. Still, the style remains possibly the best translation from comic panel to screen and once it sucks you in it's hard to ignore the fact that so many other films would benefit from toying around with a similarly stylised aesthetic.
The plot is made up of four intertwining stories, two from the comics original run and two that Miller wrote specifically for this screenplay. Frustratingly, not only has the quality of the stories lapsed since the first film, the way in which they are all brought together to make one complete film is sloppy and results in a stop-start experience. The film opens with 'Just Another Saturday Night', a fleeting segment whose sole purpose is to reintroduce us to fan and writer favourite Marv (Mickey Rourke). The bulk of the narrative is taken up by the 'A Dame to Kill For' story in which Dwight (Josh Brolin) is seduced by former flame Ava (Eva Green) when she calls on him to help her escape an oppressive husband. Green looks every bit the femme fatale and fills the role perfectly, despite a shaky American accent, revelling as the hyper-sexualised villainess. This plot provides a lot of campy-noir fun, but rather than indulging in the suspense and mystery that the genre enjoys so well, Miller's story veers closer to pantomime as Ava changes allegiance in almost every scene that she graces and the whole ordeal ends in a poorly choreographed gore fest.
The Joseph Gordon-Levitt fronted 'Long Hard Night" that bookends 'A Dame to Kill For' is more intriguing, and the actor gives a solid, engaging performance. That this segment is split in two, and we have to wait nearly an hour for it's conclusion, means that it loses much it's momentum. When we finally do return to it any impact that the conclusion should have is sadly lost, though it does provide an enjoyable cameo from Christopher Lloyd. It is the final story 'Nancy's Last Dance' that is the most successful though. Four years after the suicide of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy has turned to alcohol to sooth her grief while she plots her revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). As we get glimpses of Nancy and her fragile state of mind throughout each of the preceding stories, this feels like the most complete plot-line and the natural place to end the film. Jessica Alba delivers some of her best work to date, and with a limited amount of dialogue as well, and the emotional thread running through her story combined with it's connection to the previous film makes hers the easiest story to invest in. The only problem here lies in the inclusion of Marv, which presents a glaring continuity error after the events of the first film and feels like just another excuse to have him show up and cause some damage; exactly what he did less than twenty minutes ago in Dwight's story.
While a return to the shady streets of Sin City seemed like an exciting prospect, the toll of a nine year wait and the lacklustre screenplay from Frank Miller prevents this from feeling like a worthy successor to the 2005 film. Some of the dark charm is still there but it doesn't carry the same impact it once did and while 'Nancy's Last Dance' is an exciting conclusion to the events of the first film, the other stories here just don't match up to the quality we have come to expect from Miller's world.