SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR [2014]

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Directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez. Written by Frank Miller (screenplay).

So here we are: yet another sequel. A surefire recipe for box office success. As the decision has been made to stick to the stark, contrasting black and white colour scheme, to not compare this film with is predecessor is somewhat impossible. They simply share too much DNA. But forgetting those gorgeous looks, this is not a movie that pays true respect to its original, in many ways. The sequel doesn’t have the same level of brutality and gut-wrenching savagery at every second corner, leading to an overall plot that is foreign to the dark original. Nor is it meaty at all. In fact, JGL’s character is the most memorable. But who is he? What are his motivations? Who the fuck knows!?? He is a stranger in this universe yet he steals the show? Now I know JGL is fantastic, but I am amazed that this flick is so horrid in comparison. So many unanswered questions, along with new characters’ who are seemingly there to replace the ones that didn’t return for the sequel.

This same concept of sparsity applies to the scenes of violence that involve the women of Old Town; Miho in particular. She first came to us as a deadly angel, with limitless creativity in how she was able to expertly dispose of her prey. But in this sequel, her role is reprised to that of a simple, uncreative hitman. Her slicing and dicing are much too fast for any normal viewer to appreciate; each kill was more than a little unsatisfying. We know she is killing, we know her victims’ blood are spilling. But these scenes are drenched in so much contrasting black and white that precisely how much blood is spilling isn’t quite possible to determine, especially when it is all a bright, neon white. When did this become an alien film??!

Now, curiosity may have killed the cat, but given the predominantly black and white choice, one can’t help but wonder why a bright blood-red wouldn’t be used to juxtapose against that imposing black and white colour scheme. You know, to perhaps set it apart from the original – in a positive way. Especially when we are discussing blood in a literal sense. This is a real pity, as while this film undoubtedly looks fantastic, one can’t help that a few changes could have changed this into a visual masterpiece. I mention the blood because, unlike the original, there is a lot less colour here to play against the B&W. A pair of eyes, one beautiful dress… please correct me if I am wrong, but this movie was almost entirely colour free! Violent acts can only go so far when every scene is shot in high contrast black and white, making each dead henchmen seem like they are filled with fluorescent goo that has a penchant for exploding out of deceased persons. This movie also suffers from the same symptom countless action movies suffer from: each scene of violence feels much too fast, too jerky – it is hard to tell exactly what is happening until the dead bodies fall over.

Marv is back, though to be honest, bar one scene, Mickey did not seem like he wanted in as much as he did the first time around. For the most part, his performance is half-cocked, until he decides he is ‘bored’ in Kadies and decides to get involved in a total stranger’s violent affairs (I later realised that this ‘complete stranger’ was actually Dwight. They really did a horrible job casting Brolin, he couldn’t look more different from Clive Owen).

He replies that lots of violence and lots of guns sounds like just his thing. In fact, many of his lines brought a wry smile to my face, his character definitely has a warped sense of humour which I love, and despite the story not involving him directly, I found myself rooting for him and laughing at the incredibly pessimistic things he had to say. Not to mention his every action throughout was erratic and unpredictable. His character was a rare treat in this film, though I can’t help but feel that Mickey could really have made Marv’s character jump out of the screen.

Josh Brolin was by far the most forgettable character, I had a hard time trying to decide if he was supposed to be a character from the original (which it seems he was). This is probably why his performance feels so flat, Dwight as a character had been fully fleshed out by Clive Owen. He did a stellar job. The best thing Brolin did was his narrative duties, which I thought trumped everyone else in that it actually felt full of emotion – it felt real.

I feel I must re-iterate here: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is by far the most impressive actor here. He fits into this seedy universe without trying, and not once were his actions unconvincing. He did not miss a beat, he demanded the focus in every scene he was in, and he played his character almost more than perfectly to prove that he is easily one of the most multi-talented young actors in the game today. From Mysterious Skin to Don Jon and everything in-between; and now this? He is proving himself as a thoroughly dependable actor (and now director), and to think, he isn’t much older than me!

The girls of Old Town weren’t as prominent this time around, which was yet another disappointment. Though, I again loved the insane smile that spread across Rosario Dawson’s face when indiscriminately spraying bullets. Gail certainly hasn’t changed, though her presence in the movie certainly has. As mentioned, Miho’s antics are neutered considerably, though there were a few undeniably great sequences involving her trust bow.

Jessica Alba proves that she has become more than a pin-up, as she transforms herself into a strong, no-regrets character  who has grown up. Her character progression was interesting, as she is essentially transformed by movies end. In addition to JGL, another show-stealer is Eva Green, someone who I was not familiar with at all, but her performance here has made a fan out of me. She plays one hell of a piece or work and reigned supreme in the acting department; those green eyes defying every word she said. Truth or lie? It was not once evident. Oh, and she gets her kit off, which seems to be the only thing most males are caring about regarding her character. Was that move a cash-grab? I would lean towards ‘no’, if it weren’t for the fact that Bruce Willis is back in two or three scenes as well; as some sort of ghost? His name is famous, right?

Cha-ching!

The main element that I missed from the original was the element of tension. That feeling where my throat would close up as if my lungs were struggling to get oxygen, just wondering what the hell could happen next… these moments are for the most part absent. There are many examples of this concept from the original film; the way Marv flies out of his apartment when he is hunted down near the beginning, or when Hartigan is hung and his fate seems truly decided. These are just two examples from many. There are zero instances of this nature in the sequel, there are no scenes to leave you guessing in suspense. I guess what I am saying is, for the most part, this movie is incredibly predictable, even for someone who is horrible at predicting movie plots.

I also missed the surreal scenes from the original. I realise this is a minor gripe, but for example: the bizarre colour of Senator Rourke’s son, or the cell Hartigan is locked in, surrounded by a black nothingness; no other cell in sight.. Among many other scenes (how about the drive taken by Dwight and a dead Jacky boy??). Here, in 2014, these types of scenes are nowhere to be found.

Despite all my gripes, this new Sin City was fun. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as good as the first in almost every area. Now that isn’t to say this is a fluffy kitten. The visual style may be dated and ‘done’, but goddamn if it doesn’t still look cool. Unfortunately it is hard to not compare this with the original, which had more savagery, more interesting characters and a better looking picture overall, as well as a plot that isn’t predominantly bone. This sequel really does seem like half the original. It is even barely over 90 minutes long – which I wasn’t expecting, but is probably for the best – there is no real solid plot here to speak of, so there wasn’t much to resolve in the final act anyway. A conflicting film no doubt; I enjoyed the action yet found myself picking holes in it everywhere – not a habit I usually practice – most probably because everything here had been done better nine years ago.

This movie will disappoint most who are fans of the original, and to be as general as possible, this is because of the incredible lack of creativity, which seemed to be apparent in spades in 2005. I hate to say it, but could Tarantino’s involvement in the first movie have something to do with this drastic dip in quality in this sequel? I of course realise that he was merely a ‘guest director’, but perhaps he was more involved than we thought?…

I guess we will never know.

1.5/5 – Very disappointing