Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

"Sin City's where you go in with your eyes open, or you don't come out at all."
Doesn't get any more quotable than that.

"Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For" is the sequel, nine years in the making, to the brilliant Sin City, directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. Back then it was a surprise hit, enabling movies like "The Spirit" and "300" directly and other R-rated comic movies like "Kick-Ass" and apparently not Deadpool, but I digress... Sadly, it is already obvious that the sequel doesn't come close to the financial success of the original. But that's just the box office, what about the movie itself?

"A Dame to Kill For" sees the return of a lot of the talent involved in the first movie, Rodriguez and Miller direct and a host of actors return to further explore their characters from the first movie. The sequel follows the formula of the first movie and separates itself into four stories, loosely connected by the city and the characters.

"Just Another Saturday Night" features Mickey Rourkes Marv regaining consciousness on a highway, surrounded by corpses and having no recollection of the last hours. "The Long Bad Night" was written exclusively for the movie, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a professional gambler who gets in over his head. The titular "A Dame to Kill For" revolves around Dwight, Clive Owens killer with a new face from the original, this time before his plastic surgery, played by Josh Brolin. In the story, he gets entangled with his ex, Ava Lord, played by Eva Green. Finally, "Nancy's Last Dance", likewise an original story, takes place four years after the events of "That Yellow Bastard" from the first film and sees Jessica Albas young stripper seeking revenge for the events of that story.

It's really hard to review this movie without acknowledging the kind of universe it is set in. Realism very much takes a back seat here, with characters that might seem human, but definitely excel in terms of durability and strength, to varying degrees even. The City is a brilliant backdrop, dark, murky and with danger lurking behind every corner. There is very little morality to be found here and none of our heroes are even slightly squeamish when it comes to violence.

For the people who liked the original, this on promises more of everything, more violence, more sex and most of all, more Marv. Yes, Mickey Rourkes character was so well received, deservedly so, that Miller and Rodriguez put him in every single story, even if it is only a cameo. But while he is a fascinating character and Mickey Rourke plays him with an energy and relish you don't see that often, he is definitely overused here. When the final story comes around, in which he is Nancy's right hand in her plot for revenge, we've seen so much of him already that all he really does is pose a huge error in continuity from the first movie. I won't spoil it, because if you don't notice it, you're definitely better off.

Both Sin City movies jump around their timeline wildly, with only loose connections between the storys. This makes the world of Sin City seem so intense and full of storys. Some storys take place at the same time, like "Just Another Saturday Night" and "That Yellow Bastard", others show you characters at vastly different points of their story, like "A Dame to Kill For" and "The Big Fat Kill". It is a very intricately crafted timeline, which makes it even worse when it is broken.

Another problem is the arrangement of the different episodes. The main story, "A Dame to Kill For" begins after the very short opening with "Just Another Saturday Night" and a quick glimpse at "The Long Bad Night" and "Nancy's Last Dance". The problem is that this way, the movies climax comes around half of its running time. While Joseph Gordon-Levitt can hold the audiences attention very well, fitting into the citys aesthetic and style perfectly, Albas story feels more like an afterthought, at its most interesting in its beginning and declining from there. At this point, the movie only drags on, giving you time to ponder continuity errors, something that might have been fixed by putting the story up front.

Apart from those two things "A Dame to Kill For" is actually a lot of fun. Despite being in it a little bit too much, Rourke is amazing to watch, Josh Brolin shows once again that whatever actor came before him in a role, he can match up to it. With the help of some prosthetic make-up, he even looks the part towards the end of his story. Gordon-Levitt has some of the best lines and fits the story like a glove. However, the real standout is Eva Green, chilling and dangerous, the epitome of desirability. Once again starring in an adaption of Rodriguez work, she shows once again that plays dangerous women like no one else in Hollywood.

The original style is back as well, with a few new flourishes, but mostly the same. The films noir look is once again punctuated by a few coloured accents. The movie looks astonishing, worth it just for the sheer stylishness.

Overall, this movie is a fun ride, not quite as great as its predecessor, but still showing a lot of potential. Sadly after it tanked at the box office, it's not likely we'll see another one, but then again, Rodriguez and Miller do have a mind of their own.

Oh, and be sure to check out Cinemartians review over here.

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