Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller.
Screenplay: Frank Miller.
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Jamie King, Juno Temple, Stacy Keach, Marton Csokas, Jamie Chung, Lady Gaga, Bruce Willis.
“No one’s ever really guessed what hell is. It’s watching the ones you love…in pain”
After a nine year gap, director Robert Rodriguez finally returns to the dark graphic novel’s of Frank Miller’s Sin City and it’s pugnacious inhabitants. Fans of the original (myself included) had been waiting with bated breath for more of the same but sadly this doesn’t deliver as well as it could and feels somewhat flat in comparison.
Predominantly set as a prequel to the 2005 film, this time we follow the path of Dwight (Josh Brolin) as he tries to help out his old flame Ava Lord (Eva Green) from the clutches of a powerful mogul. Meanwhile, cocksure card-sharp Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has an old score to settle with his father Senator Rourk (Powers Boothe) at the poker table as Nancy (Jessica Alba) swears revenge on the same man for the death of her protector, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis).
There is much to admire in terms of it’s stylistic approach and hard boiled, filthy noir but suffers the way many sequels do; it has no substance and lacks the originality of it’s predecessor, leaving you with a heavy feeling of having trodden these paths before. Despite some excellent set-pieces the vibrancy of the original is lost and the characters don’t gel as well as they did. The first film worked wonders by sticking to chapters where each one was meticulously threaded into the other but in this case, they cross over. There is no beginning middle or end and as a result, we end up with a muddled and incoherent narrative.
As much as the recasting choices are decent they’re certainly no better than the ones that went before and it’s hard to grasp just who’s who at times. Sans Clive Owen as Dwight McCarthy we are given Josh Brolin before the characters facial reconstruction and as much as I admire Brolin, Owen was a better fit. Dennis Haysbert tries to fill the massive boots of the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute. Again, it’s an admirable attempt but it’s not as effective and the least said about Jeremy Piven taking over Michael Madsen’s small role as Bob, the better. In fact, you would never be able to work out that it’s the same character if you hadn’t done your homework beforehand. On the up side, Mickey Rourke’s Marv is just as much of a brutish treat as he was in the first outing but he’s underused and Bruce Willis delivers nothing more than a cameo as the much trusted Hartigan. It’s actually Eva Green who really shines most as a true femme fatale but maybe that’s because she does more acting with her breasts than anything else, leading the film down a similar misogynist alleyway. Gordon Levitt’s story is apparently an original character and idea and wasn’t part of Miller’s stories but he’s quite effective playing against a cigar-chomping Powers Boothe on fine form once again. Overall, the performances are good enough but they’re given very little to work with and for all it’s style, it’s just not enough to see it past the post this time around.
Another example of how Rodriguez can be such a hit and miss filmmaker. Maybe if he concentrated less on producing, writing, cinematography, editing and music scores, he’d actually have enough left in the tank to concentrate on being a director. An admirable list of talents these may be but he so often bites off more than he can get his gums round and ruins what could have been a great experience. I’m saddened to say that I was left disappointed in this underdeveloped revisit to Basin City. Not so much hard-boiled as half-baked.
Trivia: One of the lead roles was originally offered to Johnny Depp but he declined due to scheduling conflicts. Joseph Gordon-Levitt later replaced him and chose to star in the movie despite offers to star in other movies such as Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Godzilla (2014).