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SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR… a day late and a dollar short (but watchable)

Posted on September 8th, 2014
Posted on September 8th, 2014

by Coop Cooper

The first film was a gritty and grand cinematic experiment. A brilliantly stylish adaptation of a comic book revealed in contrasty black and white with the occasional red blood thrown around and a few other primary colors splashed in for punctuation. It presented an all-star, ensemble cast and hardboiled film noir with a dash of horror. Here it is again, but with a little less of all that good stuff.

This film seems to take place after the Bruce Willis segment of the first film but before the Mickey Rourke and Clive Owen segments of the the first film – that’s going to confuse some people, especially since it was out of sequence to begin with. It starts with psychopathic protector of women, Marv (Mickey Rourke), doing what he does best, killing scumbags and not remembering how he got there. Meanwhile gambling shark Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) comes to town with a reckless agenda and a hankering for a game of poker, and runs into exactly the trouble he was looking for. Exotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) still bitter over the death of her would-be lover, Hartigan (Bruce Willis), self-mutilates and plots revenge while the ghost of Hartigan tries to talk her out of it. Private investigator Dwight gets in over his head with Ava (Eva Green), a fem fatal who appears to be in danger but obviously cannot be trusted.

I’ve seen lukewarm positive reviews of this film claiming this one is just like the first “Sin City” film but with something missing. I’m pretty sure the main element that is left out is the novelty of the original’s outrageous visuals and style. The original released nine years ago in 2005. That’s a long time for an innovative style to go stale. Much like the lag between the stylish Spartan war film “300” and “300: Rise of an Empire” (eight years in that case); they waited too long to put out the sequel. This “Sin City” is bound to lose both critically and at the box office, even if it’s highly watchable… and it is.

There are a few new faces filling in for previous actors. Josh Brolin takes over for Clive Owen as Dwight, but that change is meant to be explained away as plastic surgery, which doesn’t work at all due to the lousy makeup job done on him. The second-biggest replacement is Dennis Haysbert who replaces the deceased Michael Clarke Duncan as the nefarious, hulking bodyguard, Manute. Japanese assassin Miho is now played by Jamie Chung instead of Devon Aoki, possibly because Aoki was never up to the physicality of the role. Finally, Jeremy Piven steps in for Michael Madsen as corrupt cop Bob but nobody will notice the difference since he wasn’t an important character to begin with.

As usual, Eva Green steals the show. She has a talent for playing dangerous women and this role might be her most intimidating to date, even when spending half of her scenes naked. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the gambling shark Johnny fails to excite only because of his meager screen time. Marv is still everybody’s favorite anti-hero but he gets no story arc and suffers from an unsatisfying conclusion. Dwight ends up getting the longest storyline, even though he is once again the least interesting character. Powers Boothe proves once again he plays the best villains ever since he slimed his way through the action masterpiece “Extreme Prejudice” in 1987. Ray Liotta and the lovely Juno Temple get a few juicy minutes and Stacy Keach is unrecognizable as a potato-headed mobster. The only dynamic character in the entire film is Jessica Alba whose spiral into madness is both compelling and shocking. However, Willis’s presence in this film is completely wasted and unnecessary. My only guess is that it was contractually obligated.

Its pacing is uneven, the story isn’t as complex and the film’s stylistic choices show no discernible change and therefore no improvement, plus it ends abruptly. A day late and a dollar short, but it’s still “Sin City”. It’s gory, over-the top and fun as long as you don’t expect the exact same thrills and chills of the original.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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