film reel image

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 2014 * * * Stars

Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForDirectors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Towards the end of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (the flick I'm about to review), Mickey Rourke's character Marv and Jessica Alba's character Nancy Callahan (a centralized exotic dancer) join forces to bring vengeance on a vehemently distraught Senator. Right before they partake in a final gun-riddled bloodbath, Marv looks over at Nancy with her multiple face lacerations and ratty hair and says, "I think you look hot." Oh man, you gotta love Rourke's Marv, always looking for a fight, or his next kill, or some bad guy to torture. And as duly noted in the previously released Sin City (the 2005 film that "Dame" is a sequel to), he'll always have a thing for Nancy, his female induced heartbeat.

So here we are in the doldrums of August and what do I see? A rare, long awaited second helping that has just enough trippy eye sores to trump the original. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For almost comes off as a copy rather than a sequel to the sweltering, groundbreaking hit from 2005. To a degree though, it works much better than its predecessor ever did. "Dame" is shorter, tighter, leaner, meaner, and easier to follow. Its also got a more modernized look that will truly knock your socks off. Whereas the first Sin City went a little over two hours and wasted time on tedious, upsetting torture scenes, this new installment (out in theaters more than nine years later) is more action-oriented (yet surprisingly less violent) not to mention more rooted in its devilish film noir style.

"Dame" is co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Rodriquez, who's Once Upon a Time in Mexico made me a fan, has always had a certain talent. He's a film maker's filmmaker and just like a lot of other great directors, loves movies and is a huge fan of many genres (Westerns, vampire flicks, revenge thrillers, etc..etc.). His only Achilles heel may lie in the fact that his storytelling capabilities have always been rather glib. He's good with the camera but the plots of his films seem all over the place. In the closing credits of most of his work, you'll see the title, "shot and cut by Robert Rodriguez." That basically means that he edits his own shtick. Not his strong suit. He should just hire a well revered editor to sift through his hyper kinetic footage. Thankfully he doesn't need to spend that extra money here because just in time, and to the chagrin of this critic, he manages to do his best chop job yet. That is what ultimately garners my surmised recommendation.

Filmed in a way in which the actors emote in front of a green screen, told through four overlapping vignettes or stories (containing themes of revenge, greed, hallucination, and drug addiction) and based on the writings of graphic novelist Frank Miller, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For gives you the following tidbits: a frat boy gets killed over calling Mickey Rourke's character a "Bernini Boy" (based on the coat he was wearing), a happy-go-lucky card shark wants to win a big stakes poker game against a powerfully snide Senator named Roarke (played by the always menacing Powers Booth), a former detective pines for the woman he loves (green-eyed Eva Green) only to get the pulp beat out of him by her one-eyed, violent chauffeur, and an alcoholic go-go dancer can't shake the memories of the suicide committing by her lover (Bruce Willis as John Hartigan). And through all these events, there's good old Marv played with face altering makeup by Mickey "scotch and water for all my friends" Rourke. Mickey's character hangs out at Kadie's Saloon, the bar that is constantly depicted in "Dame." He knows everyone's business, wants in on all the action, and thinks he may or may not be a psycho killer. Oh and he likes to say, "that's a darn fine coat you're wearing" right before he kills the person who he said it to. What a swell guy! Not.

Anyway, in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Rodriquez and Miller treat each violent, cartoonish sequence as if it's art being painted by Picasso himself. Longtime bud Quentin Tarantino would be proud of the way they film sword wielding stuff in the vein of say, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (in black and white with white blood no less). With glorious comic book overtones, these two mavericks create a sumptuous background rooted in black and white hues interspersed with some reds, oranges, and blues (these colors are thrown in to possibly introduce an important protagonist, a plot point, the color of a dress, the color of lipstick, or a mild image of bloodletting). Finally, they do a great job with dissolves and flashbacks. I especially like the way they shoot a character falling through glass, in dense space, or in a free fall made to look like something out of a dream.

As for the cast of "Dame," well it includes actors/actresses new and old. Welcoming additions to the Sin City cavalry include Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has amazing screen presence here and with slicked-back 50's hair, the perfect look for a comic book-induced nightmare), Josh Brolin (taking on an atypical Josh Brolin role), Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven (the only actors who seem to be out of place with the material), and Ray Liotta playing a troubled businessman named Joey. As for the players making a return from the first go around, you've faithfully got Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Bruce Willis and my favorite character in the whole shebang, the silent assassin referred to as "deadly little Miho" (Jamie Chung).

In conclusion, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a late summer movie to root for. It's sadistic, splashy, edgy, film noir gold. In fact, it's even more film noiry than its predecessor. I only wish the ending wasn't so abrupt, or quick, or radically unsavory. It's as if the filmmakers ran out of budget or time and just needed to wrap things up. In essence, I wanted more and I wanted a better prelude to a third Sin City (I read that Rodriguez and Miller are planning on truly extending the franchise). Regardless, this 2014 release is something I plan on seeing many times over. And to the critics out there who found it boring, I'm curious. Did you see the same movie I did? Anyway, during "Dame's" intense theatrical trailer, the character of Johnny (Gordon-Levitt) says quote unquote, "Sin City's where you go in with your eyes open, or you don't come out at all." Well after taking in a viewing, I "came" out of the theater with my eyes wide open, a rollicking macho grin on my face, and an enthusiastic thumbs up! Good day at the office.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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