Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

It's been nine years since Robert Rodriguez teamed with Frank Miller to bring Miller's Sin City to life. Producing the most faithful comic book movie to date while still finding a way to add value and improve the source material with stylistic choices that continue to make the film visually unique nearly a decade later, I thought enough of the film to make it one of my Top 10 Films of 2005.

Since that time Hollywood has attempted to recapture the magic of Sin City with a series of comic book stylized movies, none of which have measured up. Despite Miller's involvement The Spirit floundered. And although 300 was marginally passable, if completely ridiculous at times, the sequel was far from impressive.

Returning several of the original film's stars, while doing some recasting here and there, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn't as good as the original. The opening scene featuring Marv (Mickey Rourke) feels a bit rushed. It doesn't give us Clive Owen for the post-op Dwight. And we don't get nearly enough Rosario Dawson.

That said, once the sequel finds its rhythm there's quite a bit of enjoyment to be had. Structured in much the same way as the original, we're given interlocking stories involving Nancy Callahan's (Jessica Alba) obsession with Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) after the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis, who appears in limited action as a watchful spirit), Johnny's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) bad night involving his own run-in with Roark, the misadventures of Marv who shows up in multiple storylines, and Dwight (Josh Brolin) getting pulled back into the web of the dangerous Ava (Eva Green) who, as the title clearly states, is A Dame to Kill For.

Surprisingly, despite being murderers, strippers, hookers, and psychopaths, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For offers several strong female characters who control much of the film's narrative. Even Nancy this time around gets to kick a little ass on her own and be more than the damsel in distress we saw in the first film. Sure, they're not exactly good people, but they're strong and vibrant characters who allow the actors to shine.

Although I still prefer Owen's version of Dwight from the first film, Brolin turns out be be good casting able to handle the character's inner-turmoil over Ava while still having physical stature for his buddy scenes with Marv during their reckless night out. Eva Green wouldn't have been my first choice for Ava (Angelina Jolie was the original choice back in 2005), but she handles the duplicitous nature of Miller's film fatale well. Due to Devon Aoki's pregnancy Jamie Chung steps in to the role of the deadly Miho without missing a beat and Dennis Haysbert is able to fill the shoes of the recently departed Michael Clarke Duncan as the imposing Manute.

There are several small roles scattered throughout the film featuring well-known faces as well. I preferred Jeremy Piven's smart-ass partner to the cop (Christopher Meloni) who Ava wraps around her finger with little effort, although both serve the story. Of the returning stars I was most disappointed with Jaime King who returns as both Goldie and Wendy but is given so little to do in her one scene I'm unsure why she was brought back at all.

I'd argue that the first Sin City is nearly a perfect film far outperforming its source material while creating a visually distinct film that still impresses nearly a decade later. That's a hard standard to hold any sequel up to, but judged on its own Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an enjoyable summer film filled with the same mix of sex, violence, and beautiful dames.

No comments: