Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
- Mickey Rourke as Marv
- Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan
- Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy
- Eva Green as Ava Lord
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny
- Powers Boothe as Senator Roark
- Rosario Dawson as Gail
- Dennis Haysbert as Manute
- Ray Liotta as Joey
- Bruce Willis as Hartigan
- Jamie Chung as Miho
- Jaime King as Goldie/Wendy
- Jeremy Piven as Bob
- Christopher Meloni as Mort
- Christopher Lloyd as Kroenig
- Juno Temple as Sally
- Lady Gaga as Bertha
Coming almost ten years after the startling original Sin City, this second installment had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t match its predecessor in many ways, but A Dame to Kill For is far from an all-out failure and does have its moments that need praise.
A Dame to Kill For takes the same narrative structure of the first movie, albeit with stories that serve as a prequel to those events that occurred in the original. These stories intertwine at many points along the way of the narrative structure. We first of all have cocky slicker Johnny, who seems to have a lot of luck when it comes to winning in poker games. Arriving in the godforsaken town of the title, he takes on the corrupt Senator Roark in a game that he repeatedly wins. Roark doesn’t take to kindly to this showing of power from the young gambler and has his men violently sort him out. This in turn sets up many more brutal encounters between the two men in a battle of supremacy. The second story and prequel to the first movie, concerns Dwight McCarthy when he was a private detective, intent on not letting violent urges and temptation get in his way. Dwight finds himself caught in a seductive web, spun by the femme fatale Ava Lord. No matter how hard he tries to resist her, he can’t break the spell of the poisonous temptress. She brings him into a plot to kill her husband, by playing the part of the abused wife who needs protecting. Sure enough, the bewitched Dwight agrees and murders her unwitting husband. With her husband dispatched of, the cunning Ava leaves Dwight for dead. Good for Dwight is the fact that he has the brute Marv to help him and take him to the girls of Old Town, lead once again by the kick ass dominatrix Gail. The hookers shelter him and help him through reconstructive surgery alter his appearance, ready for revenge upon the eponymous dame for her betrayal. The last tale focuses on Nancy Callahan, who mourns the death of her protector Hartigan. Knowing that the reason he killed himself was because of the evil Roark, the exotic dancer slips into drunken madness and uncontrollable rage; plagued by hallucinations of Hartigan that warn her not to avenge him. Swearing revenge on the all-powerful Senator, she teams with a willing Marv in her attempt to kill the corrupt leader once and for all.
Visual style is very much on display throughout A Dame to Kill For, it’s just at times it doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the first film. We do get some nifty visuals mind you( the sinister crimson of Ava’s lips and shining emerald eyes are a particular highlight) and the use of silhouettes is stunning to accentuate the smoky atmosphere of the town. There’s just a feeling of ‘been there done that’ about it that hangs over this movie. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez both bring style and action to the fray, but the structure isn’t as up to scratch as it once was and the movie suffers as a result. For example, certain parts of the stories are expanded upon enough and other times too much time is spent on one tale. Yet when the action does hit its height, it does deliver in blood-soaked fashion that is still quite electrifying. Once again, a sexy soundtrack that hark back to the shadows of Noir creates a good amount of intensity that provides interest.
Mickey Rourke once again delivers the goods as the brutish Marv, who is more than willing to help out a friend with business, especially if it involves blood, murder and violence. Rourke does get to show a tender side again, this time acting as the helper to the vengeful Nancy in her time of need. Jessica Alba, though often the subject of debate as to her acting credentials, confounds expectations and brings sadness and aggression to the role of Nancy. Rather than just the sexy dancer from the first film, we get to see her as a broken down girl, shorn of hope but thirsty for revenge. Josh Brolin, portraying the character of Dwight before the reconstruction sported in the first movie, gives his part weariness as he navigates his way through violence, yet finds himself ensnared by the manipulative Ava. Eva Green is the definite showstopper in this movie, seductive and sinuous as she traps men with her beauty and brings pain to them. Slinky and cunning, she is a poisonous viper who is adept at making people do her dirty work and then leaving them with the consequences. To say that Eva Green was smouldering and sexy in this movie would be a criminal understatement. Joseph Gordon-Levitt contributes youthful charm and cocky self-assurance as upstart Johnny, who tangles with the wrong man in the form of Senator Roark and pays the price. Power Boothe returning again brings malevolent sneakiness to Roark and exposes his ruthless, power-mad nature that knows no bounds once infuriated by others. Rosario Dawson, although unfortunately used in a reduced capacity, is still fierce and crafty as Gail. Dennis Haysbert has the physical stature and deep voice to make Manute a very physical and dangerous adversary, yet Ray Liotta in a role as another corrupt politician is somewhat wasted. The same can be said about Bruce Willis, who appears as Hartigan in Nancy’s hallucinations. He just isn’t given enough to do to make his appearance here memorable. Jamie Chung doesn’t make for a great replacement as assassin Miho; I believe Devon Aoki did a better job and had the stony faced intensity for the part which Chung lacks. Jaime King returns as twin prostitutes Wendy and Goldie, but scarcely makes an impact this time around. Jeremy Piven and Christopher Meloni make impressions as two cops investigating the murder of Ava’s husband; Piven is the one who is wary of the dame, whereas Meloni is the one who falls under the siren’s spell. Christopher Lloyd gives his part as a sinister doctor who helps Johnny after he is brutalised by Roark’s men. Juno Temple is wasted as a young prostitute saved by Dwight, while music fans should look out for a cameo by pop star Lady Gaga as a sympathetic waitress who takes pity on a wounded Johnny.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was never going to match the heights of the original movie, but it’s not as bad as people make out. It’s just not as thrilling as it could have been, despite its wealth of potential.