Mania Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Powers Boothe and Christopher Lloyd
  • Written by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
  • Directed by: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez
  • Studio: Dimension Films
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

A second trip down the dark side of the street

By Rob Vaux     August 22, 2014

The original Sin City left me surprisingly cold. It adhered so closely to Frank Miller’s original comic vision that it forgot to be cinematic. It was like one of those “motion comics” they occasionally try to sell us where they deliver CGI-motion versions of the actual book, frame by agonizing frame.  Sure the images onscreen looked great, but they had nowhere to go, and while Miller’s prose was grand on paper, it turned into a shuddery mess when spoken by actual actors. Still, the venture proved a success and a sequel looked extremely promising. For various reasons, it didn’t happen the way anyone expected… but it did eventually happen, and I’m pleased to say that A Dame to Kill For improves upon its predecessor.

Director Robert Rodriguez had nine years to study his first effort, and returns with more confidence in his own ability to do this material justice. Miller meets him halfway by developing new characters and scenarios specific to this film, and while the dialogue remains as unwieldy as ever, the product as a whole feels much more organic than the first film. It thus becomes easier to forgive its shortcomings (Why Frank? Why do you hate women so, so much?) and just wallow in the unparalleled neo-noir that unfurls before us.

Once again, Rodriguez weaves multiple stories in and out of each other, most of them centered around the titular women and the men who want them. We’ve already met Nancy (Jessica Alba), still dancing for her supper and now deeply in mourning over her lost protector Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Then there’s Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her elite band of ninja hookers, keeping an eye on Dwight (Josh Brolin, taking over for Clive Owen) who’s falling for a serious piece of bad news. Ava Lord (Eva Green) has him wrapped around her little finger, and with a gal this deadly, that spells trouble for everyone. Marv (Mickey Rourke) continues to trample through it all like a bull in a china shop, while newcomer Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds a unique way to take on the always terrifying Senator Roark (Powers Boothe).

In short, it’s just another wild night in Sin City, and this time around, the newcomers get the best of it. I honestly don’t know where this picture would be without Green, the fatalest of femmes, who once again takes a stock-in-trade female stereotype and resolutely makes it her own. She refuses to bow to our expectations of how this character should act, instead making her evil temptress a player in a vicious game where only the strong survive. The other actresses can’t quite match her act (Why, Frank? Why?), but her work reverberates through the film, and gives her fellow gals a little more assertiveness than they might have carried otherwise.

Then there’s Gordon-Levitt, who is deceptively good at this kind of material. He plays the luckiest gambler alive, and his combination of surface innocence and deep-set will make him the closest thing to an actual hero we’ll find in this universe. That precludes Marv, of course, whom Miller dotes upon as usual and whom Rourke continues to embody with unparalleled perfection.

For his part Rodriguez inspires the kind of confidence to attract a cast this strong, which is a good thing, because the stories themselves remain quite a mess. Style goes a long way, and few movies are as pleasing to simply gaze at as this one. Unfortunately, the artifice eventually starts to wear thin and the narrative beneath it can’t quite escape the clichés it hopes to redefine. The lines still clunk, and while the actors can handle it well, it doesn’t do anything to cut the overwhelming artifice surrounding it all. This time, at least, the pros outweigh the cons (though just barely at times), and A Dame to Kill For’s eager embrace of the R rating makes for a bracing change from most comic book movies these days. Was it worth the nine-year wait? That’s in the eye of beholder. This time, at least, it’s still worth another couple of hours. 


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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 8/22/2014 5:16:31 AM

 Wow - most people and reviews I read are saying the opposite. How the original was great and this one was pretty meh.

Iridan 8/22/2014 6:25:07 AM

I was under whelmed by the first one. I'll pass on this.

CyanideRush 8/22/2014 7:14:29 AM

I'm actually truly excited for this, as is my wife. We're both enormous fans of Rodriguez and the original. So we're stoked to see this.

monkeyfoot 8/22/2014 8:44:51 AM

I was never a fan of the first one. It was a great piece of FX work re-creating the look of the comic but story-wise I really couldn't care about the situations or the characters. Caring about the people and feeling for them is a big part of movies for me. That felt like a long Vimeo FX demo reel.

Saying that, I'm intrigued by how Rodriguez has said he takes great advantage of 3D, so it makes me curious. I'd have to see it in the theater to find out.

mellowdoux 8/22/2014 10:20:24 AM

 I'll pass

CalamityJohnson 8/22/2014 10:33:14 AM

goodness. On the other hand, I looooved the first one. I loved it's comicy dialog and how tightly it stuck to the original script. It was meant to be a comic made movie, and no other movie has gotten so close. nerds always complain how directors take too many leisures when making their movies, changing this, excluding that, etc. Then, we have that one movie that adheres to it almost perfectly and then we complain about dialog and how it doesn't look like other movies. Fickle nerds I say. Never content. I thought the original was a masterpiece, and I'm looking forward to this one.

boxker 8/22/2014 10:36:37 AM

hey, I love the motion comics

redvector 8/22/2014 10:38:45 AM

 It didn't even break a million dollars on opening night, it only made $475, 000. By any metric that's a flop. 

xJokersxWildx 8/22/2014 11:55:06 AM

The first one was great, do the the Nick Stahl character all urine colored haha.

This one i'll wait for a nice DVD night.

Miner49er 8/22/2014 5:23:47 PM

Would love to see Eva Green wearing what she's wearing in the pic while she does the ice bucket challenge. C'mon, it's for charity!

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