07252017Headline:

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” movie review

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By: Jeff Boudreaux

In 2005, director Robert Rodriguez and writer Frank Miller unleashed “Sin City” on an unsuspecting public, forging a landscape of neo-noir gangsters and femme fatales. Fast forward nine years and the two men have proved that not only can lightning indeed strike twice, it can also pack a bigger wallop the second time around.

For the second installment in this series, based on Miller’s graphic novels, “Sin City: A Dame  to Kill For,” we are treated to three exciting new vignettes – one of which was written directly for the film – and characters such as card-shark Johnny (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), illegitimate son of Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe) and the title character, played by Eva Green.

Some old favorites are back as well, like Kadie’s resident stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba), with a much bigger part in this sequel and serving as the glue – or should I say stitches – to hold the segments together, and of course the tough guy with a heart of gold and a face of granite, Marv (the phenomenal Mickey Rourke).

The plot segments this time around concern Gordon-Levitt’s character and his aspirations of one-upping Senator Roarke, the most powerful man in Sin City. Unbeknownst to Johnny, Roarke  is his father, yet that doesn’t translate into a fuzzy feeling where the Senator is concerned. In his own words, the Senator fathered many children in his time, but only thinks of himself as having one son. That’s right, the weird “Yellow Bastard” from the first film which he stares longingly at in a picture frame on his wall, a running sight gag in the film.

Meanwhile private eye Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, taking the reins from Clive Owen in the first film) must battle his personal demons and his passion for married Ava Lord (Green in full-blast vixen mode) who even comes with her own bodyguard, Manute (played by Dennis Haysbert, but you know him as the Allstate guy).

And last, but not least, Nancy – still fully clothed but sexier than ever – has her own beef with The Senator, whom she views as responsible for her boyfriend and protector John Hartigan’s death (played by Bruce Willis). Once a guardian, now a guardian angel apparently, Hartigan is still there watching her every move (who wouldn’t?)

While the bookending segments take place following the events of the original “Sin City,” the middle one is a prequel which shows that Clive Owen looked like Josh Brolin before facial reconstruction, and we also get to find out how Manute (played in the first film by the late Michael Clarke Duncan) came upon that golden eye of his.

Once again, Rodriguez shot his film in black and white, providing his audience with the stark images of a dark, seedy town on the cusp of either sin or salvation. As usual, minimal colors were highlighted. For example, red, exhibited in vibrant locks on prostitutes such as Marcie (played by Julia Garner) and the always fun to watch Juno Temple, whose adulterous tryst with Ray Liotta gets her in a little too much hot water before the protector of damsels in distress, Dwight, is able to save the day. Also in support are Rosario Dawson (reprising her role as Gail, leader of Old Town), Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven as a pair of bickering cops, Christopher Lloyd, Lady Gaga, and Stacey Keach as a crime lord who looks like a cross between Humpty Dumpty and Jabba the Hutt.

This film is the epitome of tongue-in-cheek, and anyone who takes it too seriously is missing the point. Sure, the violence is way over the top, and some characters are extremely cartoonish, but that is also where the draw comes in. What co-directors Rodriguez and Miller have done here is provide us with a sequel that tops the first film in every way, creating a steamier and more seamless variation on life in Sin City. There is a great deal more nudity in this installment, most of which is provided by the lovely Ms. Green, who may have worn clothes for merely a quarter of her screen time.

In preparing for my review, I revisited the first film and was surprised at how much I preferred “A Dame to Kill For”. Josh Brolin’s characterization of Dwight McCarthy is leaps and bounds over that of Clive Owen and the situations bear a greater resemblance to the grimy world of film noir. I also think it’s high time I address the elephant in the room here concerning the first film. It’s what I like to call the “Sin City” curse. Let’s see, Brittany Murphy (who played a waitress at Kadie’s) and Michael Clarke Duncan are dead, everyone thought Nick Stahl (“Yellow Bastard”) was dead for a period in 2012, and Clive Owen’s career isn’t exactly showing that much life either these days.

Whether or not there is a “Sin City” curse, the filmmakers have given us the best possible cast for this film who are surely entertaining us at their own risk. This movie was just fun all around and restored my faith in the volatile art form known as “the sequel”. *** (3 out of 4 stars)

 

 

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