Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Title: Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Released: 2014
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

Plot: Another collection of tales from Frank Miller’s “Sin City” as Cocky gambler Johnny (Gordon Levitt) finds himself on the wrong side of Senator Roarke (Boothe) after beating him a backroom poker game. Years before “The Big Fat Kill” Dwight (Brolin) gets caught up with his former lover Ava (Green) only to get caught up in a dangerous double cross.  Elsewhere four years after the events of “That Yellow Bastard” exotic dancer Nancy (Alba) is still plotting her revenge against senator Roarke who she blames for Hartigan’s suicide.  All in all it is going to be busy few nights for muscle for hire Marv (Rourke)

Review: It’s hard to believe that it has been nine years since our last visit to Frank Miller’s legendry neo-noir city of violence and corruption, but after various delays and re-casting Rodriguez and Miller have teamed up once more for this second collection of stories from Miller’s cult series as this time the film builds around the story “A Dame To Kill For” which forms the main meat of the film while book ended by two new stories “The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance” which Miller penned specifically for the film.

Right from the opening short “Just Another Saturday Night” which sees Marv waking up next to a crashed police car and trying to figure out how he came to be surrounded by a group of dead frat boys, its almost as if we’ve never been away as Rodriguez once again sticks to the black and white shooting style of the first film, while once again clearly using the source comics as the storyboards. A style which Miller tried to replicate for his misguided let alone plain random adaption of “The Spirit” but thankfully Rodriguez it would seem is the voice of reason in this team as this film thankfully is free of any such randomness, while largely giving us more of the intoxicating mix of gratuitous violence and black humour, even if the later is noticeably more absent than in the previous film as the duo seem to be aiming for a solid noir style tale. Frustratingly though when humour is introduced it is often clumsily handled and more of a distraction than the light relief it provided the first time around.

Still despite this slight change in direction, the familiar faces waiting to welcome you back to Basin city means that it’s often none too noticeable until you stop to examine the film closer. Thankfully in the time which has passed nothing seems to have changed for any of these characters, with perhaps the exception of Dwight who we get to finally see what he looked like prior to his surgery. For most of the cast though it’s still business as usual as they go about their various dirty deals or trying to find a way to escape their various issues. At the same time we also get a whole heap of new characters to add to the local colour even if these new characters are largely to fill minor or supporting roles.

Sadly while it is a great cast which has been assembled here, the performances throughout vary greatly with Bruce Willis phoning in yet another performance for what is essentially a glorified cameo. Rourke especially suffering as a result of his role being increased so that he now appears in every story with the exception of “The Long Bad Night” almost as if no one can pull of a plan in this city without his assistance, something which really damages the mystique of his character as previously he was seen as a lone wolf, while here he is largely to add to the violence quota or to provide clumsy comic relief. Elsewhere and most disappointingly Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears to be giving us a poor man Bogart impression as he snarls though his lines, with none of the cool he brought to his previous Neo-noir effort “Brick”. The fact his character lacks of any real purpose other than trying to embarrass senator Roarke only adds to the creeping sensation that like “Nancy’s Last Dance” that this story was only added as filler when it became obvious that they couldn’t stretch “A Dame To Kill For” to feature length, while the fact its split into two parts lacks the natural breaking point that we had with “That Yellow Bastard” in the original and comes off looking like they remembered part way though the film that they hadn’t finished Johnny’s story and return to hastily wrap it up the same way all the stories end this time with someone getting a bullet to the head.

Due to the long delays between this film and the original it has meant certain roles being recast with Jamie Chung taking over from Devon Aoki due to being pregnant at the time of film resulting in deadly little Miho going from a stone cold killer to just another pretty girl from old town whose handy with a sword. Dennis Haysbert makes for a great replacement for Michael Clarke Duncan even if he doesn’t have quite the vocal presence of his predecessor. Josh Brolin is equally on good form, even if his portrayal of Dwight is perhaps alittle more gritty than Clive Owen’s who was supposed to share the role with Brolin only to ultimately not be available for filming which now leaves us with the scenes were Dwight has supposed to have changed his appearance through plastic surgery, which I suppose would have seen the role switch to Owen and now leaving us watching Brolin looking like he’s had a bad facelift while bad guys act like he’s a completely different character!?!

The real star of the show here though is Eva Green, who is utterly captivating as the titular Dame and despite spending a vast amount of time in the nude, it never feels that it is being done for titillation, as here it gives her an almost siren esq quality, especially when she uses her womanly charms to further her own causes, usually with fatal consequences for the men who succumb to her. While Angelina Jolie was the original choice for this role, this is truly Green’s role and its hard to imagine any other actress being so willing with some of the more risqué elements of this role, much less the amount of nudity required.
Unquestionably though “A Dame To Kill For” is the strongest of the stories featured and in a way makes sense considering that it was written when Miller was writing in his prime, which as anyone who has read any of his more recent efforts will tell you those days currently seem like a long lost memory. Judging by Miller’s directorial debut with “The Spirit” it would also seem that Rodriguez is the voice of sanity in the duo as this features none of the sheer randomness that plagued that film, while lifting the visual style of “Sin City” which here doesn’t seem to be as edgy as it was back in 2005, yet at the same time it is a style which suits the film still even if perhaps the moments of colour we get throughout the film don’t seem to have any of the poignancy of the original, which only used colour for the character of Goldie and occasional splashes of crimson. Here though what qualified for the colour treatment seems more sporadic and frequently without reason, though thankfully Eva Green’s eyes are amongst the things which do.

While this might not come close to the original, it still has its moments as well as fun smaller appearances by both Christopher Lloyd and Lady Gaga as a drunk doctor and waitress respectively. Perhaps because of the strength of its middle section though I still would love to see another film in the series, if perhaps based solely on original material than letting Miller try and write anything new again as here when it does it only detracts further from the film. Like any night we see in the film this is one to be certainly approached with caution.

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