Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) Review – Visually Stunning

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For brings together the graphic novel talents of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez who co-direct this sequel to the original film.  There’s a long list of characters played by Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Powers Boothe.

My understanding is that the film is based on three story lines from the original source material.  There is an incredibly talented gambler Johnny (Gordon-Levitt) who seems determined to confront Senator Roark (Boothe).  Dwight McCarthy (Brolin) is a man who gets caught up with the ‘Dame’ Ava Lord (Green) who seems to be able to cast a spell over him.  Finally we have the stripper Nancy (Alba) who seems determined to kill Roark because she lost John Hartigan (Willis) and holds him responsible.

As context to this review I didn’t see the first Sin City film and I’m not familiar with the source material so I am judging this film on what I saw last night and nothing more.  The first thing I wanted to say was that I enjoyed the visual style of the film.  The black and white colour scheme, the grey male characters and accents of colour brought by the blood or a female characters hair and dress.

When I was trying to sum up the film in my mind I settled on violent medieval fairy tale.  I say this because the male characters are generally portrayed as hard drinking, hard gambling, lustful types much like Henry VIII and his fellow European heads of state.  The female characters in the film are generally shown to be powerless in society and have to rely on their feminine wiles to control the men to do their bidding.  On top of that there is a mix of decapitations, throat slitting and, in-keeping with my theme, extensive use of a crossbow.

This medieval fantasy is mixed in with the classic 50’s pot boiler as the characters narrate the story in their head describing all of their thoughts and even their feelings as they get beaten up.  If you can buy into this world (and Eva Green with no clothes on) you will really enjoy this film.  If not, then there is every chance you could really hate it.

If you don’t accept the world I described then what you are likely to see is an appalling portrayal of men and women in equal measure.  The men seem incapable of controlling their base urges while the women have to prostitute themselves to take advantage of the men’s weakness.

One of the undeniable flaws in the film is that it is clear that there are three story lines going on which at no point completely come together.  The only link between them is the character of Marv played by Mickey Rourke.  He ends up playing a part in the outcome of each story arc, possibly hinting at him being one of the favourite characters from the first film and Miller was looking for an opportunity to include him in as much of the action as possible.

I found myself in the middle of the the road when it came to accepting the medieval world inhabited by the characters in Sin City.  Taken with the stylish visuals and Miss Green’s wobbly bits the film just held my attention but it’s a long way from being great.

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