Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Writer: Frank Miller (graphic novels / screenplay)
Stars: Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke
Release Date: August 22, 2014
It's great to finally be back in Basin City, but it feels like its greatest yarns have already been unraveled.
Not long after 2005's Sin City became a success at the box office and developed a significant following, Sin City 2 was rumored and soon after announced. Years passed with few developments. It wasn't until the last few years that wheels were finally reported to be in motion and so this Sin City sequel made my list of the most anticipated films for the last three years. All this is to say that I have been looking forward to A Dame to Kill For for a very long time and it's the rare sequel that showed up 9 years after its predecessor (arguably 6-7 years too late). In some odd case of coincidence, 300: Rise of an Empire also finally came out this year. It too was a 2005 prequel/sequel to a visually-striking adaptation of a graphic novel by one Frank Miller. And both feature Eva Green by whatever throw of the dice. With that set-up, I sit here asking myself wether or not it was worth the wait.
I can honestly say that it is a thrill to be back in B̶a̶sin City. We begin with everyone's favorite lug, Marv. He regains consciousness in the middle of the road. There's two totaled cars. Several bodies. Marv begins piecing tracing back his footsteps in his mind in a thread known as "Just Another Saturday Night." Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have nailed the look all over again. I was worried that they were going to lose something in the translation this time around, but it's just as faithful, if not better than ever. This time around they have the added bonus of 3D, which they shot the film in.
There's few filmmakers and few properties I would specifically request the additional dimension from. Baz Luhrmann was certainly one and there was no better way to see The Great Gatsby last year. Rodriguez has been in the frontline of the 3D crusade since its rise in the last decade. Unfortunately, in 2005 he was too busy doing The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D to think about doing the original Sin City as such. That became a possibility this time around and the film excels so well from it, that you'll forget about the effect all together and simply fall headfirst into the visuals. Marv narrates his night and comes to the chapter where he hijacked a cop car and gave chase to a group of punk college kids and suddenly the images collide and we see the car chase taking place around his unparalleled head. I knew I didn't have anything to worry about in the visual department from the beginning.
Besides "Another Saturday Night" there are three other stories featured this time around, including the title's "A Dame to Kill For." Therein Josh Brolin plays Dwight, a private detective who gets lulled in by a former lover to protect her from the man she married. The Dame is Ava and she is fulfilled by Eva Green. She's a seductress extraordinaire and continues the thematic pattern found throughout the books and now films of Sin City: men who find themselves hopelessly committed to women and their willingness to do anything for them. This storyline rolls in its repetition and gnaws at gratuitousness. Green's bare breasts deserve second billing for this film. It's incredibly faithful to the book (the second in Miller's series), but these issues manifested themselves in real-time and in live-action.
The other two narrative threads interwoven on either side of "A Dame to Kill For" are actually all-new stories which Miller himself wrote for the film. One continues the Jessica Alba/Bruce Willis relationship from the first movie while the second follows a young man named Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He shows up at Sin City, overlooking all of its lights from the high road coming into town. He's a gambler and means to do some serious business. I actually found this original storyline to be the most engaging in the film. It explores new motives, locations and faces while existing in direct relation to many of the characters we already know. I've always liked it when the stories intersected and we found ourselves at a familiar intersection only to go the other way this time around.
For further confusion and general irksomeness, a few characters are played by different actors this time around. It makes plot sense in the case of Dwight and there's not much else they could have done with the passing of Micahel Clarke Duncan. Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd and Stacy Keach join the fun, each stealing the scene they're featured in. Also, there's much more of Powers Booth as Senator Roarke this time around which is always a good thing.
If you were as big a fan of the first Sin City as I was, you're going to have plenty to enjoy this time around. If the first failed to impress, this one won't be likely to do the trick either. The first film had three slam-dunk stories in a row (arguably the best from the books) and none of the four this time around quite measure up to their lofty standards. Maybe the best way to watch these films will be in the form of a master cut. Or maybe a chronological telling? At least then "The Hard Goodbye" would end things on a high note. Still, in its current form A Dame to Kill For is another visual treat with more comings and goings in the dark of Sin City.