Some of Sin City's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.Some of Sin City's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.Some of Sin City's most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.
But for those who have been eagerly awaiting a return to the outlandishly scuzzy urban hellhole of Basin City (given the eponymous title for its collection of thugs, mugs, femme fatales and their criminal and moral misdeeds), you'll be glad to know that 'Sin City' is just as we had left it. Indeed, it picks up not long after where its predecessor left off, with one of the few good guys in the earlier film who was lucky enough to keep his head (pun intended) - the quintessential tough-guy of tough-guys in Basin City, Marv (Mickey Rourke).
Marv narrates from a first-person perspective the prologue which is as much introduction as neophytes will get to this portrait of urban dystopia. Awakening on a deserted highway outside the city, Marv recalls his altercation with a group of frat boys beating up a wino before he blacked out and his subsequent return to Kadie's saloon, where he keeps an eye on its resident stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) whose tragic past was the subject of the previous movie as well as whose obsession for vengeance bookends this current one.
But Marv and Nancy ain't the only ones who are back; Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) returns to play the much-reviled villain of this chapter, the father of the notorious Yellow Bastard slain by Hartigan (Bruce Willis) before the latter met his own unfortunate death which Nancy spends the last tale trying to avenge. It is Roark whom Joseph Gordon Levitt's brash hotshot Johnny confronts one night during the former's backroom poker game, his arrogance leading not just to his unceremonious downfall but also the death of an innocent dancer Goldie (Jaime King) whom he picks up at Kadie's.
In between the two consecutive nights of poker which Johnny challenges Roark, Josh Brolin steps into the role which Clive Owen previous inhabited as private investigator Dwight McCarthy, whose former lover Ava (Eva Green) reaches out to save her from an abusive husband Damian (Marton Csokas) and his henchman named called Manute (Dennis Haysbert, who replaces the late Michael Clarke Duncan). As it turns out, Dwight is being played by the diabolical and seductive Ava, who as it turns out, is the titular dame that is easily the most compelling and intriguing object of this whole enterprise.
We don't blame Dwight for not having the resolve to simply walk away from Ava; wielding femininity like a trap, she also ensnares deputy police chief Mort (Christopher Meloni), despite being forewarned by his associate Bob (Jeremy Piven). Dwight's subsequent journey of redemption offers a detour that brings back Rosario Dawson's Gail, madam to Old Town's band of lethal prostitutes, including the Japanese longbow- wielding assassin Miho (Jamie Chung, replacing the original's Devon Aoki). It's easy to take it for granted, but you have to give credit to Rodriguez for his sheer effort at reuniting such an ensemble group of cast and characters to ensure that his sequel does indeed feel, look and tell like one.
In part of course that has to do with the way the 'Sin City' movies are structured; and like its predecessor, this one weaves several of Miller's lightly entangled tales into a larger narrative piece, with loose connections between the characters of each individual vignette. Of these, the centrepiece is also the most fascinating, in large part due to Green's scene-chewing performance in various states of undress - but nudity aside, she is sexy, funny, dangerous, wild and in two words, compulsively watchable.
The suitably menacing Boothe is an excellent complement, singlehandedly the reason why the segment with Levitt as well as his showdown with Alba manage to pop off the screen. But it is still a weak finish, in part because Alba remains a pretty but pretty empty actress, unable to convey the angst and anger tormenting her character as she struggles to muster up the courage to pull that trigger on Roark despite seeing him every night at the club where she gyrates. Rourke plays the tough-guy with the soft spot like the back of his hand, but his on screen appearance still makes him one of the most iconic denizens of the city.
And on their part, Rodriguez and Miller demonstrate the same faithfulness to the latter's illustrations, so that just like the last movie, this one unfolds in the same graphic-novelly way. The dynamic signature visuals are still intact - high-contrast black and white, with occasional splashes of saturated colour for emphasis - but so is the deliberately ham-fisted dialogue that is meant as a hark back to the neo-noir thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s. As we said before, in terms of style and tone, it is as if we never left 'Sin City' despite the nine-year gap.
That may sadly not be enough to win over converts, as 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' may very well be a victim of its own predecessor's success which has inspired other such adaptations like '300', 'Sucker Punch' and even Miller's own 'The Spirit'. Yes, this sequel doesn't so much as improve on the earlier film as recreate and recapture the same noir-ish nihilism. No matter, familiarity after a close-to-a-decade absence still feels both fresh and comforting to us at the same time, and we suspect fans of 'Sin City' will feel likewise.
- Aug 23, 2014