Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

There is nothing new under the sun.

Released in 2014, certified UK-18. Reviewed on 26 Sep 2014 by Scott Morris

There were a few reasons for us first setting up this 'ere film opinion delivery vector, back in the beginnings of recorded history. One of them happened to be the, in our opinion, glibly handed out short shrift given to some reviews of sequels - sequelitis being, as much as we moan about it now, as big of an issue back then in the early seventeen hundreds when we first put digipen to futurepaper. There seemed to be no shortage of reviews saying little more than, "if you liked the last film, you'll like this one".

By this point I'm sure you can see where this is headed, which is to say that the most succinct distillation of my opinion on Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For is that if you liked Sin City, then you'll like Sin City 2. This time, at least, there's a complicating wrinkle in as much as going into the multiplex, I had only the vaguest recollections of what went on in Sin City. Indeed, the nine years since the original release has muddied my thoughts on the film down to "Stylish. Violent. Overblown. Moderately Enjoyable". Certainly, I'd no recollection of the plot details, having neither rewatched nor particularly thought about the film in the past near-decade. I was surprised, therefore, to see so many of the plotlines carrying forward from the fallout of the first film.

It's not a huge issue, I suppose, given that none of the plots or characters are complicated enough that a great deal of catching up is required, and the themes are so broad that I don't think prior knowledge of Sin City is essential. Although, of course, if you haven't seen the first film, that there point regarding the utility of reviewing sequels based entirely on reference to the first outing rears its ugly head, which I guess means we've got some 'splainin to do.

Basin City is the sort of town that makes a pre-Batman Gotham City look like, I dunno, somewhere nice and safe - let's say Glasgow. Crime runs rampant, the police are more often than not another part of the disease rather than the cure, and violence, prostitution, and political corruption are so integral to the place that it's just the commonly accepted background for people's day to day shenanigans. Y'know, just like Glasgow. Also like Glasgow, it's known locally as Sin City. Hence the name of Frank Miller's series of graphic novels, from whence this movie adaption came.

We're largely following the same shower of anti-heroic miscreants, such as Mickey Rourke's intimidating, closer to Helllboy than human Marv, a slugger with a protection fixation on stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba). For her part, Nancy's losing herself in booze following the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), talking to her hallucinations of him while trying vainly to work up the courage to kill the appropriately cartoonishly corrupt Senator Rourke (Powers Boothe), ultimately responsible to having Hartigan killed after Hartigan offed his revolting Yellow offspring.

Dwight is still around, although this time he's notably more Josh Broliney than Clive Owenish. He's the fella around which the plot surrounding the titular dame to kill for, Ava (Eva Green), er, surrounds. Around. Anyhow, Ava's an old flame that wandered out of Dwight's life in search of a man with bigger attributes in the bank department, and wanders back in to Dwight's life, and also the strip joint that's unusually central to all Sin City activities, with a sob story about how poorly she's being treated and how she fears for her life. To be fair, Dennis Haysbert's hulking bodyguard/prisonguard following her around provides some circumstantial evidence for her predicament, which is enough to drag Dwight back in.

To no-one's particular surprise, Ava's manipulating Dwight and everyone else she comes into contact with for her own ends, including booty-blinded cop Mort (Christopher Meloni), leading to a great deal more conflict over the course of the film. Meanwhile Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is getting into his own gambling related scrapes with Senator Rourke, tying back rather loosely into Nancy's search for revenge against Rourke. So, rather like the first film, there's a lot of activity going down. Lots of ins, lots of outs and what-have-you.

If my vague recollections and my previous review are anything to go by, the plot threads are even more disparate in A Dame To Kill For, so I have to applaud Rabbie Rodrigiez for weaving them together in a way that makes them appear more closely related than they are, on sober reflection. Given the spread of characters and plots, there's an easily imagined version of this film that's a complete mess, so again we have to applaud how smoothly this flows between the characters and their goals.

And, of course, you have to comment on the visual style of the film, the (largely) black & white process giving a credible emulation of the style of Miller's graphic novels, which looks great. In small doses. Like, two hours every five years sort of doses, but that's about in line with Hollywood's delivery schedule. It retains the copious amount of monochromatic bloodshed from the previous film, and in a more realistically filmed context would seem completely gratuitous. Which, realistically, means that it is gratuitously violent, but the visuals are in such a different style that it hides it pretty well.

The minor axis of Sin City is its astonishing take on gender relations, which I'd call sexist if it didn't seem to hold men in equally low regard. I mean, sure, there's a number of strong female characters, but they're uniformly male wank-fantasies, who don't appear to have a sensible stitch of clothing between them. The men have at least been granted a wardrobe budget, but the price of that is they're all various combinations of vain, greedy, arrogant, corrupt, violent, aggressive, idiotic or astoundingly easily manipulated, generally by Eve Green flouncing around with her baps out. In general, Sin City shows very little regard for humanity, making it the most accurate documentary of the last decade.

All this adds up to a film that's, well, fine, if you're in the market for this sort of thing. There's a few good lines and a few good moments of action, which is just enough to stop your attention wandering too much. That said, there's not enough of them to really recommend that anyone drop what they're doing and rush out to see it. Which is largely my opinion of the first film, so, with a heavy heart caused by grave inevitability announce that if you liked the last film, you'll like this one.

I feel so dirty.

Frank Miller
Robert Rodriguez
Cast list:
Mickey Rourke (Marv)
Jessica Alba (Nancy)
Josh Brolin (Dwight)