Some of Sin City’s most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants.
Weaving together two of Miller’s classic stories with new tales, the town’s most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants.
Ten years ago, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller set the world of cinema on its collective ear with their extremely stylized and heavily fetishistic film version of Miller’s comic series of the same name. Now the duo return with more adventures set in Basin (AKA Sin) City, with new stories featuring many of the same characters from the first film, telling us all about how Sin City can be one hell of an exciting yet disturbing place to live in.
Returning characters include Marv (Mickey Rourke), Gail (Rosario Dawson), Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Roark (Powers Boothe), Dwight (Josh Brolin) & Nancy (Jessica Alba). All of them are returning with brand new stories that (Thanks to Miller’s fairly snappy script), help to bridge the gap from the last film to this one with nary a bump. The new characters include Ava (Eva Green), Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Mort (Christopher Meloni) & Bob (Jeremy Piven). Dennis Haysbert fills in for the since deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute and Jamie Chung replaces Devon Aoki as enforcer Miho. All of them essay their roles comfortably, save for one (But I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs).
Although I described the script as “Fairly Snappy” a few sentences ago, the film doesn’t rely on it – The universe of Sin City is entirely visual. Once again eschewing conventional film techniques, Rodriguez and Miller bathe their film with gorgeously decadent black and white cinematography that’s heavily back lit. Rodriguez is pretty much the high priest of green screen filmmaking at this stage of his career, and this film is his magnum opus. His characters stand out against the backgrounds and look like they’re high res animated figures at some points in the film and at other moments they seem to fade into the gorgeously crafted (& razor sharp) images that they’re supposed to be acting in front of. Color is non existent save for the occasional burst of flame red hair, a characters blazing eye color or the deep ocean blue of another character’s dress. Occasionally, Rodriguez flips everything around and the picture goes into reverse, with black outlines suddenly becoming white ones that provide blazing contrast against all of the black on display.
Decent as the script is, there are moments where the storylines get into a bit of a kerfluffle. Especially when they reach out to make a connection with the previous film. The film also feels a bit longer than it actually is, there are moments where the film slows down to a near halt (Especially where Meloni’s character is involved), it’s not as much of a novelty now as it was then. But the film looks so good (Especially in 3D), that it’s pretty easy to forget what you’re listening to because you’re so dazzled at what you’re watching.
Acting wise, the stand out character here is Ava and with her performance here and in this year’s 300 sequel, Eva Green is officially “Best Villain of 2014”. Her angular, chiseled face and her extremely expressive eyes are the stuff of cinematic legend now. She also has one hell of a physique and Rodriguez/Miller make her even more sultry & seductive by highlighting certain aspects of it, while covering the rest with those incredibly deep, dark shadows. Only issue is that she’s immediately identifiable as a baddie as soon as she appears and that sorta takes some of the mystique out her story line. Mickey Rourke is looking more and more like he isn’t wearing any makeup, but he fits into Marv’s leather trench coat like he was born to play the part (& I think he was). Gordon-Levitt’s story is intriguing, but he looks too much like a teenager to comfortably fit into his role as a high stakes gambler and it ends way too abruptly.
But the worst performance here comes from Jessica Alba as Nancy. If you listen to our weekly podcast or look at my FB page, you’ll know that I pretty much worship the ground Ms. Alba walks on, I’m destined to marry her one of these days for sure (I think). But I think all of my adoration blinded me to what I realized earlier today – she ain’t all that good an actress. She seems to rely on pouting her way through this (& as I thought about them), all of her other roles with reckless abandon. And what’s the deal with being the most popular stripper in the city, yet never taking off any of your clothes? Isn’t this what strippers are supposed to do? Maybe the word Stripper means something completely different in Sin City. She wears a scowl throughout the film that’s supposed to make her look tough, but all it does is make her look like a pouty teenager who got caught trying to sneak out of her bedroom after midnight. And if she isn’t careful, her face is gonna stay looking that way. I still plan on marrying her though, no matter what she looks like…
The biggest problem the film faces is trying to get people to focus on its varied stories when they’re too busy looking at all of the sultry, sexy imagery on display. In the case of Sin City: A Dame To Die For, this is Rodriguez’ blessing, and his curse. The visual palette he uses to make his vision a reality is so enticingly bracing & gorgeous, that it overshadows whatever script is attached to it. For some, this is gonna be a problem, but in the end it wasn’t a deal breaker for me. I thoroughly enjoyed taking another trip back to Sin City and I think most of you will as well.
Sin City: A Dame To Die For – 3.5 out of 5 shrouds.