I tend to be suspect of films based on comic books. Even when they’re called graphic novels. I didn’t read comic books as a kid, nor do I read them now, even if they’re called graphic novels. I want to – I want to be that cool but I’m not. I do dig Wolverine though…but I wasn’t really crazy about the first SIN CITY film. It was way cool to watch. And I do have a thing for Benicio Del Toro…Welcome to my internal dialogue heading into SIN CITY: A DAME TO DIE FOR. It is much like the internal dialogue which opens the film with a velocity of 80 MPH, or for those of you across the pond, 128.75 KPH. Tumbling through inky blackness unable to place himself or remember, Marv (Mickey Rourke again under incredible makeup) returns with other familiar faces and some new. Each one etched with the ubiquitous graphic chiaroscuro of Frank Miller.
After 9 years and a clearly successful maturation process, the sequel has emerged from it’s adolescence and grown into a charming adult. Like a Chateau Lafite Rothschild compared to a bottle of Thunderbird, time alone can make a significant difference for a follow-up project. Where the first SIN CITY was relentlessly violent , chaotic, and bit off more than it could chew in terms of narrative, the second is classic film noir on crank with a smart sense of humor about itself. It has been streamlined, tightened and is the next generation of the franchise and a welcome shift. It continues the ground breaking one-of-a-kind aesthetic created by Frank Miller in his graphic novels and realized on the screen by Robert Rodriguez’ cinematography and the art direction of Steve Joyner, Jeanette Scott (Sin City) and Caylah Eddleblute (A Dame To Die For), but it has been refined and is far more elegant. Color, when it does appear, is so saturated and filled with texture that it is breathtaking and merely watching the film is a reward in itself. The story has a timeless blend of styles, rat pack and steam punk milieus mixed with the seedy grit of Basin City and the cast has been deftly assembled.
The story jumps in fundamentally where the first left off. Time is plastic and it takes a few scenes to get one’s bearings. Rodriguez doesn’t care – you’ll hang on for dear life, catch up or drown. The screen is filled with bizarre albeit familiar faces Marv (Mikey Rourke), Nancy (Jessica Alba), Senator Rourke (Powers Boothe) Gail (Rosario Dawson) and others new to this film there are enough repeat characters to yield consistency with its predecessor but also improve upon it. We catch a cameo of Miller right up front which is always fun, like a scary drug induced Where’s Waldo game, and with the introduction of the highly skilled Johnny (Joseph Gordon -Levitt), the persistently naked Ava (Eva Green), the driven Dwight (Josh Brolin) and poison voiced Dennis Haysbert (as the new Manute) the cast is well assembled and pretty. With only two storylines to follow this SIN CITY gives you a little more breathing room and space to enjoy the details. There is a major focus on the eyes. Character’s eyes glow and throb with an other-wordly intensity, they spring into color, light up the room and are the focus of much of the more graphic violence in the film. With violence being such a governing force of SIN CITY, it was refreshing to see that the violence here, which is still liberally applied, is efficient, pointed and have just brief flashes of graphic horror, which, as I mentioned previously, frequently involve the eyes. If you’re squeamish you may want to think twice about it – especially in 3D. The guy next to me practically leapt into his friend’s lap a couple of times. It is a notable theme given the extremely visual nature of the film itself – as though Rodriguez and Miller are challenging us to survive the feast/atrocities taking place in front of our own eyes.
While I saw the film in 3D I do not feel that it adds anything to the experience. Just because we can do something does it mean we should? Those of you who read me know my position on 3D; it’s like anchovies. One or two in the right place is perfection but you wouldn’t want to eat them on everything. The visual experience of the SIN CITY films is so innately singular and lush that the 3D technology was actually slightly distracting and did not enhance the intrinsic visual quality in any meaningful way. This is perhaps the perfect specimen of a happy supportive marriage of visual effect and narrative to the degree that you cannot separate one from the other, and there is reciprocal reinforcement between the two. Miller has written a more compact script and in the new age of self- aware movies (think 22 JUMP STREET) its dash of tongue in cheek parody serves it well. Having left the door wide open for SIN CITY 3 I hope that it is not another 9 years in the making but if so…it will be worth the wait.
The Mynx gives this (4 / 5) stilettos!
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Dennis Haysbert, Powers Boothe, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni. Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, Juno Temple
Running Time: 102 minutes
Movie Review Sin City: A Dame To Die For