Thursday, September 4, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin CIty: A Dame To Kill For (or A Dame For Which To Kill if you're a grammarian) was, like the first film, written by Frank Miller and directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez.

Like the first movie, it's filmed in a hyper-exaggerated style based on Miller's minimalist comic art. It's filmed in stark black and white, punctuated by the occasional burst of vivid color, such as a woman's red lips or green eyes. Nothing looks the least bit real, but that's the point– it's a comic book come to life. If nothing else, the look of these films is unique.

Unfortunately this installment is more of the same, with very little new to offer. The stories aren't all that compelling either. Strip any of them of their trademark style and you're left with little more than standard film noir cliches that were old news back in the 1940s.


The Plot:
Just like the first film, this one is divided into several segments:

Just Another Saturday Night - In which we catch up with ex-con Marv (Mickey Rourke) on a typical night out.

The Long Bad Night (Part 1) - A cocky young gambler named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) challenges the evil Senator Roark (Powers Booth) to a high stakes game of poker.

A Dame To Kill For - the titular segment, in which psychotic femme fatale Ava (Eva Green) tricks her former lover Dwight (Josh Brolin) into killing her husband.

The Long Bad Night (Part 2) - Johnny's story gets wrapped up in a predictable manner.

Nancy's Last Dance - Exotic dancer Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) seeks revenge against Roark for causing the death of her friend Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) back in the first film.

• As with the first film, all of the segments are based on the various Sin City comics, with two exceptions. The Long Bad Night and Nancy's Last Dance were written specifically for the film.

• The film is a confusing combination of both prequel and sequel to Sin City. The Just Another Saturday Night segment features Marv, so it obviously has to be a prequel since he was executed in the first film.

The A Dame To Kill For segment is also a prequel, set before the Dwight story in the original.

I'm not sure exactly when The Long Bad Night segments are taking place. 

Nancy's Last Dance is set after Hartigan's suicide, so it has to take place post Sin City
But this segment also features Marv, meaning it's set before his death but after Hartigan's. Confused yet?

This flexible timeline was par for the course in the comic books, but it's going to flummox the hell out of the casual viewer (and maybe a few dedicated fans as well!). Do yourself a favor and just don't worry about what's happening when and just go with the flow.

• In Sin City the various segments flowed together pretty seamlessly. Here, not so much. These are very obviously stand alone stories, crudely linked together in a flailing attempt to form one coherent narrative (which given the fractured nature of the timeline, is impossible).

• It was great to see Mickey Rourke again as fan-favorite character Marv. Rourke was definitely born to play this role. Unfortunately Marv really didn't have much to do and contributed little or nothing to the overall story. The movie needed a lot more Marv.

• In the first film, Old Town was run and protected by an army of deadly hookers– even the police knew to avoid the place. Dwight McCarthy was the only male allowed inside Old Town who wasn't a "customer." I always wondered why Dwight enjoyed such special treatment.

In this film they offer an explanation– he saved ninja hooker Miho from a violent john, which I guess is why he enjoys the run of the place.

• The A Dame To Kill For was my least favorite of the various segments. It was slow moving, cliched and worst of all, just plain dull. Naturally since I didn't care for it, it made up the bulk of the run time.

• There's a lot of recasting going on in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, which I suppose is inevitable when you go nine years between movies. 

Most notably Josh Brolin replaced Clive Owen as Dwight. Reportedly Owen's schedule didn't allow him to return. This worked out OK I suppose, as Dwight gets plastic surgery in the film to change his appearance (although he doesn't quite end up looking like Clive Owen).

Dennis Haysbert replaced the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute. Haysbert is better known as the All State Guy, and is totally unrecognizable here.

Jamie Chung replaced Devon Aoki as Miho, and Jeremy Piven filled in for Michael Madsen as Detective Bob.

Actress Brittany Murphy was supposed to be in the film, but was written out due to her untimely death a few years ago.

• Stacy Keach plays the Sontaran-like mob boss Wallensquist under several pounds of latex makeup. As my movie-going pal KW Monster said, they needn't have bothered casting a known actor in the role. They literally could have used anyone under all that makeup and it wouldn't have made any difference.

• Christopher Meloni plays Mort, a Sin City detective who's seduced by Ava. Meloni is no stranger to playing detectives, as he starred for several decades on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

• As the film reaches its final segment there's unfortunately no real ending. It just sort of... stops. It's almost like they realized they were running out of film and had to wrap up the story in less than a minute.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has bucket loads of style, but sadly doesn't add anything new to the mix. I give it a B-.

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