Black and White and Red All Over
A Motion Comic … er, Film Review of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
The sort of, but not really sequel to Sin City (2005) has hit the summer of 2014, and I was a bit confused by it all. Certain characters are still alive and kicking while others remain deceased as per the events that transpired in the first film. I understand that this franchise is Frank Miller’s neo-noir wet dream where time (I presume) doesn’t have any real meaning, but this isn’t a comic book or a motion comic. It’s a film adaptation that essentially has no loyalty to its predecessor whatsoever so if the viewer’s only experience in this mythos is the first film, A Dame to Kill For will leave you scratching your head. But then, co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez didn’t intend on even this much thought going into their flick in the first place. The fact is that this Sin City is yet another protein shake of testosterone and steroids that’s as satisfying to men as it is vomit-inducing to women. The brand is an exercise in unadulterated, hyper graphic, human behavior where all men are cavemen and all women are whores. And that’s fine; what with the first amendment and all. The film would have been made a bit more substantial if it tried to use all that shock value for some kind of commentary, but alas it’s just 2 hours of raw machismo. Again, that’s totally fine, but when the audience has seen this kind of graphic violence time and time again (and that’s this film’s ONLY Ace up its sleeve), well, the one trick pony gets as old and busted as Mr. Ed.
Frank Miller penned the script for A Dame to Kill For and once again utilizes every character self narrating every passing thought in addition to their dialogue in every scene. It was an expository VO strategy that wore out quickly in 2005 and is equally tiresome today, not just for the constant droll of incessant speak, but because the audience isn’t allowed to use any imagination to make their own sense of a scene because every scene is always telling them what to think. As for the story, here’s the abridged version: I’m a man; therefore I have an insatiable ego that I attempt to feed with violence, dominance, murder and substance abuse. I’m a woman; therefore I am super sexy and must use my body to get brainless men to do whatever I want for selfish motives. Yawn. The dialogue and plot for every sub-story at work in this film is pedestrian. It is mechanical, it is formulaic and worst of all it is boring.
One fun thing that is happening in this film is the patented Sin City color scheme that features stark contrasts between black and white, with some strategically placed splashes of vibrant color within every frame. It’s a visual aesthetic that requires an army of visual effect artists that are at the top of their games. Their combined effort along with the make-up, costume and set design departments deliver an impactful experience that clearly channels the comic book/graphic novel format, but of course, in live action. Sincerely, two thumbs way up for the visual style and presentation of this film.
Nudity! It’s a significant element of this film, and before I give you the rundown, know that there is 0% full frontal male that makes the final cut as every instance where one would see a penis is conveniently concealed by a perfect placement of shadows that reveals no texture and no line so thoroughly that it’s as if a black hole were placed above the crotch. With a film as pulpy as this, the audience is bound to be subjected to some amount of it, but I hate to disappoint all those horny boys out there; Jessica Alba’s non-nudity clause in all of her film contracts is still going strong. Sure, that’s really weird for a character in a film as R-rated as this that happens to be a stripper, yet shows the least skin, but whatever. In Miller and Rodriguez we trust, right? Character actress Juno Temple goes topless for a scene with Ray Liotta which will turn some heads and get the attention of directors and producers for future parts because she is quite lovely, but is not called upon to discard all her apparel, and the scene is shot from a wide perspective, so this one instance in the buff could easily qualify as “tasteful.” Of course, all this pales in comparison to the frequent display of an exquisite example of the female form in all its glory by one Ms. Eva Green, a woman who has said Hollywood only sees her as a femme fatale and naturally plays exactly that in this film. Green appears to be a woman born to be placed in front of a camera and is as confidant an actress with or without a stitch of clothes on her. Let’s just say there’s nothing left to the imagination regarding Eva Green in Sin City.
The action in this film is as dynamic as a transition between cells in a comic book. Again, this was a conscious choice for this production, but it doesn’t translate well to 34 FPS. I found the “kung fu” displayed by Jamie Chung as Miho to be laughable especially when she’s shooting her bow. The gunplay was average and fisticuffs featured a lot of cutaways to shadows. Even the scenes featuring characters driving in this movie seemed flat and lifeless. The true “eye candy” of this film is entirely composed of the previous two paragraphs of this review.
I feel torn concerning the performances of this film because every actor is called upon to behave like an over the top, cartoon character and everyone does an exceptional job in doing so. Sure, every character is edgy, dark, disturbed and raw, but they’re cartoons nonetheless. As such, not many of the actors leave a lasting impression as Bruce Willis walks around a few times, Mickey Rourke punches and growls, Josh Brolin looks really angry all the time, Rosario Dawson is lucky to be there and Jessica Alba dances really well. On the other hand, Powers Boothe (what a stage name) plays an exceptionally nefarious villain in Senator Roark, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the one character worth generating any sympathy for as Johnny and Eva Green is no woman to trifle with as Ava the “Dame to Kill For” whom everyone can’t stop loving to hate.
The circumstances aren’t laid out too well for this Sin City “sequel.” A hard R plus mild entertainment value by themselves suggest a weak take even from the global box office, but when factoring in the stereotypically male branding of this franchise, not too many girlfriends would tolerate being dragged to this one. The storytelling at work in this film may be graphic, but it’s far too nonchalant to generate any suspense, intensity, or even intrigue outside of the brief window of the present moment. Yeah I get it; (Ba)Sin City is really messed up, populated and run by messed up people. My question is, “And then what?” I can appreciate looking at beautiful women as much as the next guy, but a movie must do more than look pretty to get my endorsement. This is a must-see strictly for those hot for Eva Green.