Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - Review

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2005's Sin City can easily be considered one of the most faithful comic movie adaptations to date. Along with an excellently recaptured atmosphere and visual style of the comics, the entire movie is pretty much a panel to panel movie version of Frank Miller's famous comic series.
Expectedly, a sequel was quickly put in development again putting Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller once again in the directing chairs. Sadly, the now titled "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" got stuck in development hell for several years. Countless promises and delays later, the movie now FINALLY hit theaters.
Yet, with so much waiting involved, the hype around "Sin City 2" obviously decreased a whole lot over time.
Ultimately it comes down to a simple question: Was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For worth the wait?   
 



The plot:
Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reunite to bring Miller's "Sin City" graphic novels back to the screen. Weaving together two of Miller's classic stories with new tales, the town's most hard boiled citizens cross paths with some of its more notorious inhabitants.
Source: 20th Century Fox 
 


Like the first Sin City movie, "Sin City 2" is split up into three stories (or actually four if you count in the prologue), which occasionally cross paths with each other. Introducing new characters as well as old ones from previous stories, Sin City 2 once again doesn't feature a full-on chronological narrative. With that said, while some of Sin City 2's stories serve as sequels to the stories of the original, other stories come in the form of a prequel shedding light on some characters' backstories.
Yet, different from the 1:1 adaptation style of the first Sin City, aside from some creative freedom and changes mixed into some of the stories, next to adaptations of Frank Miller's original comic stories, Sin City 2 also features new original tales specifically written for the movie.

Therefore, to take advantage of Sin City 2's split up overall storyline, in this review, we will talk about each story individually since each of them turns out to have its own strengths and weaknesses. So, let's start...

Let's go to Sin City one more time.

 
"Just Another Saturday Night"

Starting off the movie is a quite short tale involving and re-introducing the character Marv. This story is fairly straight-forward and only lasts a few minutes since it's far more of a prologue than an actual fully fleshed out story.
In it, Marv tries to hunt down a group of punks who previously mugged and killed an innocent civilian. Along the way, Marv tries to uncover and remember what happened to him the previous nights since his alcohol addiction causes severe memory issues.
With Mickey Rourke returning as the fan favorite character Marv, it's nice that Rodriguez and Miller decided to start the movie off with some good old bloody action with Marv doing what he does best...killing dudes.
Considering that this is simply a prologue, one shouldn't be too judgy with this about 5 min story, yet seeing that "Just Another Saturday Night" is simply there for the blood and little else, makes the entire tale a bit pointless. Comparing this with the introduction story from the first Sin City ("The Customer is Always Right"), which centered around a disguised assassin (Josh Hartnett), that story actually started and ended the movie, enclosing it in a nice frame-storyline.
"Just Another Saturday Night" on the other hand, just starts and leaves you off. Sadly, there's no real punchline or climax to this story since it doesn't get picked up again throughout the movie.

"I'm here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum."
 


"The Long Bad Night"

This story, which is split up into two parts, is a new original story specifically written for the movie.
"The Long Bad Night" revolves around a young gambler played by Joseph Gordon Levitt. With seemingly endless luck, the cocky gambler buys his way into an underground poker game. There, the gambler's goal is not only to win the game but to also take revenge on the powerful and criminal kingpin Senator Roarke. Little does he know what trouble awaits him as a consequence...

"The Long Bad Night" is a story that starts out incredibly promision and engaging. Putting a prime focus on pretty well written dialogue and a (yet again) extremely charismatic performance by Joseph Gordon Levitt, "The Long Bad Night" gives a very nice introduction to an orginal story with a new character that's exceptionally easy to dive into. Furthermore, the story has a very nice pacing. What starts out as a dialogue-heavy tale involving a guy "who simply cannot lose", fairly quickly changes its direction when the gambler's revenge plan takes unexpected paths through Sin City's underground world of shady people and merciless violence.
There are some pretty graphic and cringe-worthy painful scenes involved in this story, yet without the movie overdoing them, which works well with the flow of the story. And although other actors like Christopher Lloyd and even Lady Gaga make their respectful short appearances, this is a full-on Gordon Levitt tale, in which he always steals the show.
Gordon Levitt is an actor who simply seems to fit in just right into the world of Sin City. With both parts of the split up "The Long Bad Night" faring almost equally well, it's just a true shame that the story's ending turns out to be a big underwhelming letdown. It's another one of those story's which abruptly just stop and leave you. Although one can easily argue that "this is just the way Sin City tales are used to end", the gambler's story promises and builds towards a great climactic ending, which simply isn't given. A shame considering that the rest of the tale was so engaging to follow.

Seems like the gambler is...OUT OF LUCK! *badum tss*



"A Dame to Kill For"

"A Dame to Kill For", the titular storyline of the entire movie, is one of Frank Miller's original Sin City comic tales. It's also the longest, most comicy and probably best tale out of the entirety of Sin City 2.
"A Dame to Kill For" centers around private detective Dwight McCarthy who is this time played by Josh Brolin instead of Clive Owen. In the story, Dwight re-encounters his long lost love Ava Lord, a femme fatale with exceptional abilities in manipulating men and getting what she wants. After begging him for forgiveness for leaving Dwight years ago for a wealthy tycoon, Dwight reconciles with Ava only to end up being caught in Ava's sinister plan full of lies, betrayal and greed...

"A Dame to Kill For", as already said, is easily the most comicy and action packed of all of Sin City 2's stories. With it revolving around a femme fatale who has an actual hypnotic influence on men surrounding her, "A Dame to Kill For" might be considered a bit far fetched at some points, yet compared to 2005's Sin City's cannibal- and Yellow Bastard storylines, the story about the femme fatale Ava Lord seems to fit in best with the original Sin City movie's style.
As a whole though, "A Dame to Kill For" has an inconsistent pacing mostly due to the movie ocassionaly shifting the focus onto characters that simply aren't that interesting. Therefore, "A Dame to Kill For" most notably shines at parts when Ava's seduction tactics are let loose or when the action packed showdown at the villa ensues. Yet oftentimes, dialogue parts in between feel a bit dragging and uninspired.

This could just as well be a scene from the Oldboy remake.

Characterwise, "A Dame to Kill For" serves as a prequel to the original's "The Big Fat Kill" tale and therefore reveals a whole lot of backstory about many individual characters. Comic nerds however will definitely notice that quite some parts of the story have been changed though to force in continuity between the two Sin City movies. While non-comic readers won't notice that, Sin City comic readers might feel that some backstory hints come off as a bit unnecessary and well...forced.
Nevertheless, "A Dame to Kill For" features a large array of known characters from the first movie who very obviously though are mostly played now by new actors.
Josh Brolin as Dwight is easily the most boring out of the entire bunch. Although Brolin himself is not a bad actor, his cardboard cutout badass performance lacks the charismatic character of Clive Owen's depcition in the original 2005 Sin City. With Brolin being pretty much the protagonist in the story, he sadly nevertheless poses as a weak hero to root for in the story.
It becomes astonishingly prevalent that the female characters in "A Dame to Kill For" are what bring the true life and dynamic into the story.
On the pole position of course is Eva Green's great performance as Ava Lord. This has been an absolutely great casting choice. Not only does Eva Green fit the comic character's likeness very well, but she also plays the part with the exact seducing and erotic charisma as well as the depiscable betraying true face that lies beneath her entire masquerade. Very obviously, Eva Green is not shy of...erm...showing her goods throughout several scenes of the movie, emphasizing the femme fatale nature of her character very well.
The other front of female characters come in the form of the prostitues of Old Town led by re-occuring actress Rosario Dawson as Gail. Despite her not having as much of an important role in the grand scheme of things, Dawson once again does fairly well as a "good" counterpart to Ava Lord.
Lastly, among all of Sin City 2's visual splendor, this is the story with the hands down most imaginative and awesome to look at camera angles and imaginative comic style visuals.

Summed up, "A Dame to Kill For" has just enough going for it in terms of acting, drama and action to make it the most enjoyable and fleshed out of all of the stories despite its flaws and inconsistencies.

Serious Return of the Jedi flashbacks incoming!



"Nancy's Last Dance"

Closing up the movie is the sequel story to the original's "That Yellow Bastard" story.
Focussing on the aftermath of Hartigan's (played by Bruce Willis) revenge on the Yellow Bastard and his resulting suicide, the story follows Nancy played by Jessica Alba.
Torn apart and utterly depressed by Hartigan's incomprehensible suicide, Nancy's hunger for revenge on Senator Roarke grows with each night. Haunted by Hartigan's ghost following her around and the numerous missed chances to kill Roarke, Nancy slowly goes mad until she finally decides to take justice into her own hands. With Marv helping her, Nancy embarks on her revenge quest to Roarke's residence to take him down once and for all...

"Nancy's Last Dance" is the inevitable sequel and fitting close-up story of Sin City 2. Yet, with so much focus and time wasted on depicting Nancy slowly drowning in madness and anger, it's weird how actually so little happens in this story. Although the aftermath of Hartigan's suicide of course is a very intersting premise to begin with, Nancy's storyline is a case of being "too straight-forward" and simply "being stuck on one note".
While it's of course nice to see how Nancy tries to cope with her love's death, that expectedly drives her insane with anger, the movie shows multiple scenes with Nancy hurting herself and drinking heavily, that it quickly tends to feel like the story is going in circles.
It's only when the story's climax at Roarke's residence arrives, that we finally get some good old fashioned gory action to change up the movie's monotone pace. Marv and Nancy kicking ass in the final showdown is very likely the only true part you will remember about this story.
Actingwise, "Nancy's Last Dance" is a back and forth of slight overacting and ridiculous underacting. On the one hand, you got Jessica Alba repeatedly acting mad, drinking, flipping tables over and smashing her face against a mirror, on the other hand, you got Bruce Willis...just standing there. Bruce Willis is a complete waste in the entirety of Sin City 2. Sure, he is only a ghostly spirit in the movie, yet still he barely shows any real emotion or actual acting abilities here. He is simply standing around constantly saying "No....Nancy. Stop. Please. No, Nancy...". You could actually replace his line-delivery with the one from HAL-9000 from Kubrick's Space Odyssey and replace Bruce Willis' bored appearance with a big cactus and it would be no different. Willis' performance in Sin City 2 is practically the essence of Bruce Willis' shamelessly lazy acting attitude nowadays. What a shame.

In the end, "Nancy's Last Dance" is hands down the most forgettable out of all the stories in Sin City 2 with it's drama becoming repetetive very quickly and its showdown scene being the only highlight.

I am not sure if Willis is actually acting here or daydreaming.


All in all, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is definitely not on par with the quality-wise far superior original from 2005. With several delays that gave fans a wait that lasted pretty much 9 years, Sin City 2's admittedly cool and stylish visuals are not enough from saving it from becoming an inconsistent mixed bag of a movie.
Though featuring new-, prequel-, and sequel stories that connect it to the 2005 movie, all of Sin City 2's stories have great potential that in some form always seems to be not taken advantage of in its full extent. While most of the stories distance themselves from the stories of the original through their more grounded film-noir drama, the movie only offers little to compensate for the lack of actually entertaining comic brutal fun of the original's stories to mix it up with. 
With "The Long Bad Night" and "A Dame to Kill For" holding up the best, there's still no story in Sin City 2 that is consistently entertaining throughout, making each and every story somewhat lackluster or unsatisfying in some aspects, which is truely a shame looking at some of the great premises given here.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For nevertheless is worth a watch for fans of the original, despite its inconsistensies and overall lack of actual spectacle or standout stories. With a fitting length, cool visuals and just enough entertaining moments it can be a joyful experience if you lower your expectations accordingly. Yet, seeing that this movie has been in development for such a long time and especially when comparing it to the great 2005 original, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" should've been quite a lot better.



Final Verdict: 5 out of 10 



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