Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is bland yet bearable
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez reunite once more for the second installment in the ultra violent and noir “Sin City” series.
The movie opens with the massive Marv, played by Mickey Rourke (“Iron Man 2”), collecting his thoughts after one of his late night jaunts. After ingesting a good quarter of a bottle of his special pills he is able to jog his memory enough to retrace the events that left a half dozen dead formerly well to do preppy college punks scattered about the city, his city.
Cinematic (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.)
Not too much has changed with the “Sin City” template since it’s first installment in 2005. As far as the plot structure, it is a Tarantino esque interweaving of independent story-lines that ultimately resolve with one main plot line. The problem there is that, although tremendously effective in graphic novel form, Frank Miller’s writing comes across as rudimentary and two dimensional when adapted for film. Without spoiling the movie, the varied plot lines all start strong, but quickly fizzle as they struggle to intertwine into a cohesive larger story.
What is perhaps the film’s saving grace is the abundance of capable actors on board to breathe life into their respective roles despite being, at times, restrained by Miller’s dark yet overly simplistic dialogue. I really can’t say any one member of the star studded cast didn’t show up with their A-game. I just wish that Miller and Rodriguez gave the same attention to detail in the scripting that they did in post production. My favorite story line was definitely between Dwight, played by the celebrated character chameleon that is Josh Brolin (“Jonah Hex”) and Ava, played by the mysterious and seductively beautiful Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”). This perhaps is a result of the story being almost the exact plot from Frank Miller’s 1993 graphic novel, “A Dame to Kill For,” the namesake for this “Sin City” film. Watching the movie, It was easy to quickly tell which stories were meticulously crafted and which were hastily made to fill out the movie.
The emotional struggle between Brolin and Green’s characters was moving both romantically and action-wise. Brolin breathed life into the Dwight, in my opinion, more effectively than Clive Owen (“Shoot Em Up”) did in the first movie. This is a move that I’m glad was made, for whatever reason, as it was perhaps the best sequence in the film. Aside from Brolin replacing Owen, Dennis Haysbert (“Kung Fu Panda 2”) did a decent job taking the reigns from the late great Michael Clarke Duncan (“Sin City”), although I was just waiting for him to pitch me car insurance the whole movie. Jamie Chung (“Sucker Punch”) replaced Devon Aoki (“2 Fast 2 Furious”) as the sword wielding ninja babe, Miho. The only problem with the girls of Old Town arc is that they have no reason to be there but to act as hired muscle. They truly add no value to the story, and at times seem almost tacked on just for on screen star presence. Sorry Rosario. That all aside, two actors, who in my opinion, got the short end in this flick were Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”) and Joseph Gordon Levitt (“Don Jon”). These are two guys who have proven their acting chops in all arenas and should have been treated as such. Meloni’s character was relegated to becoming a device to express Ava Green’s manipulative character traits and JGL’s (yeah, that’s what I call him) well played Johnny was wasted with a TERRIBLY generic plot line. This is truly a shame, because used in the right way, those two actors alone would have made the movie a hit.
[SPOILER ALERT!] A cameo to note was made by non other than Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, more commonly known as Lady Gaga. Although her scene lasted for only a brief moment, Gaga is unsurprisingly comfortable behind the camera. I expect to see more of her on the big screen in the coming years.
Well, that leaves us with the cinematography. This is where Rodriguez and Miller spent their big coin. I feel as though the entire budget left after paying for their gaggle of A-listers, was spent on special effects. I think that the money may have been better spent on a thesaurus for Miller. I mean I get it, the characters are seedy social underbelly types, but even those types have their golden moments. At-least they do in the movies. It seems blatantly clear that the direction this movie took was that of ultra-violence over a noir backdrop and nothing more. Don’t get me wrong, the film is visually pleasing, but in this day of special effects inundated films production teams really need to create a substantial story skeleton to support the weight of the effects. Right now it’s like dropping bricks on warm butter. The effects are the movie, but when you leave the theatre it is hard to recall any beloved moments or quotes past the credits.
We have seen it all before. I think without a stronger story to carry the movie, this second installment failed to meet the expectations set by the first; which were not high to begin with. If you are a fan of Dark Horse’s “Sin City” series, then I would definitely say you should see it for the sake of fan-dom. They do a good job scattering the numerous characters liberally throughout the film and the action from Marv alone is bone-crushingly tense, but the story is in itself a bit lackluster. Once the blood pools and the gun barrels are cooled and exhausted from spewing cartoonish quantities of lead, all that is left is the hope that the third time is a charm.
This is one of those films that will fall victim to the cobwebs. It is not a visual stunner like “Speed Racer” that you can pop in anytime you want to taste a cinematic rainbow, nor is it a “Inception” like intricately written thriller. It is what it is. Once you’ve seen it, there is little substance to bring you back. Unless you want to see Eva Green in her birthday suit, in which case cue-up and re-play away, “Sin City 2” is a one and done.
On a scale from 1-Average, I would give this film an average. It is not terrible, the acting is not poor, and the effects are well-done if not over done. On the other hand, that’s where it ends. If you want to see character development, or see if Jessica Alba finally learned how to act... I wouldn't hold your breath. But, if you have a few hours to burn and want to reminisce with the early 90’s comic age, See JGL be a BAMF, or see Eva Green in all her gothic glory, then this is the flick to watch.