A Sequel 9 Years in the Making… Was it Worth the Wait?
Director: ROBERT RODRIGUEZ, FRANK MILLER/2014
If you’ve seen the original Sin City, then you have a pretty good feel for what kind of style populates the sequel. If you haven’t, then know that Sin City is based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels. The style is of a graphic novel, with a huge helping of film noir, and neo-film noir. As in classic film noir, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has its classic black and white scenes with the neo-noir splashes of color. Mostly it is just dark, even when colorized. There is the voice-over narration with a 1940’s era crime drama feel, and the movie is wall-to-wall with sexual motivations, corruption, violence, and revenge.
Sin City burst upon the scene in 2005 and was a modest hit for directors Robert Rodriguez, and Frank Miller, who is also the creator of the novels the film was based upon. Its graphic style of violence stood out at the time and has been repeated in films such as 300 (another Frank Miller creation), and its sequel 300: Rise of an Empire. After 9 years, very few people were clamoring for a sequel to Sin City, but we have one nonetheless.
There are 3 main stories that intertwine throughout A Dame to Kill For. As was the case for the original film, this sequel has quite the A-list cast. It includes: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Stacey Keach, and many more.
Stylistically, there is more of the same as was in the original film, though here it is much more crisp, digitally speaking. This is truly Rodriguez’s forte, and his use of violence in this format, with white neon blood splashing against a black silhouetted background is much more intriguing than his use of over-the-top bloodshed in other films such as Machete Kills for example. A Dame to Kill For is also in 3D, which honestly proved to be a gimmick more than an asset.
A small story arc is provided for Nancy (Alba) from the previous film who is still trying to come to terms with the suicide of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) from the original film. Still dancing in the strip clubs (though always clothed), she has added a gun and a bottle of booze to her routine as she has succumbed to the level of the other Sin City residents who flock to see her dance each night. No longer a woman with a chance of escape, she has simply become like the city she resides in. Hopeless.
We also get to see a story line involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, a gambler who doesn’t lose. He walks into town to take all the money he can, but runs into trouble when he crosses local politician Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) who clearly has the power of the town at his disposal. There is also a connection between Johnny and the Senator that also overlaps with Nancy’s story and her desire to find justice for her pain.
The third story provides us the main narrative that gives us the title of the film, A Dame to Kill For. Josh Brolin plays Dwight, a man who is trying to keep the “beast” buried underneath a moral code to not kill anyone, and who finds work as a private eye for hire. When he is called by an old flame, Ava (Green), who apologizes for hurting him in the past, we find where his weakness truly lies. But Ava has multiple agendas going at every turn. Eva Green spends the majority of the film in the nude, and is able to command the screen, not just because she is fully exposed, but because she uses her body as an instrument within the narrative to seduce and manipulate each character she comes in contact with, as well as the audience. While Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has its share of extreme violence, like the original film, it is sex that is the true weapon of choice for this sequel. And it isn’t just the act of sex per se, but the seduction of it. Ava is simply an object of desire, and she uses it to manipulate those around her. She is the proverbial fruit on the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden. While looking desirous on the outside, the effects of a simple taste of Ava’s charm has devastating effects on all, much like the fall of man in the garden. She is simply rotten to the core.
Rounding out the film is Mickey Rourke’s character, Marv, who weaves in and out of each of the stories. He is still very much center-stage to all of the violence contained within Sin City. It is through him, that all of the story arcs come wrapping up into a nice and neat bow at the end.
The tag line of this film is “There is no justice without Sin”. But here, you could hardly call anything that takes place “justice”. Every action comes from a place of hurt, and anger. This is more about revenge, and there are no moral characters. Every soul is tainted. This exemplifies the cynical notion of film noir seeing every person as having selfish motives, and utilizing any means necessary to accomplish their desires whether it be love, or revenge. It is also a biblical notion, reinforced by scripture that states that no one is righteous, not one person (Romans 3:9-10, Ecclesiastes 7:20). And while this is basically true, in Sin City, it may be said that there is no evidence of anyone who has hope for redemption, just a chance to get even.
If you are a fan of the original Sin City, you’ll enjoy this return to the world’s worst town. Robert Rodriguez fortunately infuses enough humor in the film, and especially a lot of campy humor, to help make this a fun experience in light of the darkness and decadence that populates this town. He isn’t afraid to laugh at the ridiculousness of the fictional nature of the origin tales and the over-the-top aspects that come with a graphic novel-styled story.
As a movie though, it is just ok. The first half of the film is weighed down by too much voice-over narration meant to introduce all of the characters and the different story lines. The characters are also pretty two-dimensional, save Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke, and Eva Green. Once the movie gets going, it is more of a fun ride, but being a sequel, there is also a strong feeling that we’ve seen all of this before. Especially when you consider the other films who use this style and effects. So 9 years later, we get a sequel that very few were asking for. They made it anyway. How much you liked the first Sin City will determine how much you might want to see this sequel.