“You keep asking for it… you’re asking for it!!!” These words, spoken by a character by the name of Mort (Christopher Meloni), perfectly describe the attitude of Sin City fans in regards to the sequel of the groundbreaking film from 2005. It has been nine years since the release of the motion picture based on Frank Miller’s neo-noir graphic novels, and the complete redefinition of a comic book-based movie. The sequel was being promised by Robert Rodriguez (the co-director) and Miller ever since, and the anticipation from the fans was growing. Now, fans need not ask nor beg any longer, as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a film to pay for!
Despite being the second movie in the franchise, it should be noted that the film is mostly a prequel to the original. Several stories are told, featuring colorful, rich and yet amoral inhabitants of Basin City (often rightfully referred to as Sin City) created by Miller’s dark and brilliant mind.
The opening segment features Marv (Mickey Rourke) on “Just Another Saturday Night.” Feeling somewhat down and “wishing [he] had an excuse to break somebody’s face,” he witnesses several college students attempting to burn a homeless man alive. He prevents the incident, chasing them to his old neighborhood and then having some help from his old neighbors in carrying out justice. The next story is the tale of Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young gambler who comes to Sin City with the desire of beating an all-powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at a game of poker. Although he wins the game, matters go downhill from there and Johnny is in for “A Long, Bad Night,” in which he may lose more than he would ever think. The third and titular story in the film finds Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) receiving a phone call from his former lover, Ava (Eva Green), truly “A Dame to Kill For.” She begs to see him that night, and Dwight, despite his reluctance, agrees. However, it turns out that Ava’s intentions are far more sinister than he could suspect. The last story is the only one that is a sequel to the original film. Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), exotic dancer at Kadie’s saloon, mourns after the selfless suicide of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the only man she ever loved. With the help of Marv, she plans to carry out a vengeful plan. Senator Roark does not realize that “Nancy’s Last Dance” has not happened yet…
It should be noted that two of the film’s stories, “A Long, Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance,” are not a part of Miller’s original Sin City graphic novels and have been written specifically for the film. Many have questioned the quality of the new tales before the movie opened, given the fact that Miller’s writing has lost some value over the past few years. I hereby call you to cease any worries. The tales are just as dazzling, beautiful, enjoyable and artistic as the ones coming from the source material. This, hopefully, means that the author is returned to form as far as his writing abilities are concerned. Another matter worth mentioning is that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is considerably shorter than the film from 2005, as it ticks 102 minutes including both the opening and end credits. Miraculously, none of the four stories told feel rushed and although some may disagree, I think that each one is treated with appropriate pacing and timing.
The movie features an all-star cast, and fans will greatly enjoy seeing the returns of Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba (who was arguably the worst thing about the first film, but improves her performance significantly this time), or Bruce Willis. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For also has plenty of newcomers. Some of the characters who appeared in the first film are substituted with different actors, which only proves the time disparity between the two movies. Nevertheless, the cast of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For never disappoints. Eva Green as the seductive “goddess,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the smooth and honorable gambler, and Powers Boothe as the evil and all-powerful Senator Roark are highlights of the assemble. However, attention ought to be also paid for several smaller roles in the film. In terms of cameo appearances, Ray Liotta, Lady Gaga or Christopher Lloyd (yes, Doc Brown himself, here also as a doctor, but with a different field of expertise), as well as the directors (Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez) themselves make appearances. With all of the performances being at least fine (going into the area of spellbinding in some cases), it is clear that the cast members had much fun while making the picture, and the viewer is bound to enjoy it all the same, even if for that reason alone.
Soundtrack is a crucial part of all of Robert Rodriguez’s movies. This time, he has composed the score (like he does most of the time) with some help from Carl Thiel, an old collaborator. This is a different case from 2005’s Sin City, in which Rodriguez had two other composers (Graeme Revell and John Debney) composing scores for each particular story being told. Nevertheless, some of the themes featured in Sin City appear to recall some of the characters who appeared before, like Marv, Dwight or Hartigan. The soundtrack features some great pieces which fit the neo-noir genre perfectly. They are memorable, beautiful and catchy (the song “Skin City,” performed by the Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, comes to mind). The soundtrack leaves very little to ask for, and is arguably one of Rodriguez’s best musical achievements in his career.
Not unlike the original Sin City, the film is full of stylized (sometimes intentionally humorous, sometimes cringe-worthily disturbing and brutal, or sometimes both at the same time) violence and sex. However, these attributes are handled artistically and beautifully, and are often necessary to evoke particular feelings or push the plot along, as well as give particular characteristics to characters. For instance, Senator Roark is a brutal, sadistic man of power, who enjoys showing it over others. In a similar way, Marv is a man “born in the wrong century,” who has a very rigid sense of justice. On the other hand, Ava is a woman who uses her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants. She is, as referred to by Eva Green herself, “the ultimate femme fatale,” and the actress herself has stated numerous times before that her dream would be playing such a dark character. Well, apparently dreams come true in the film industry…
Dreams also come true for the fans of Sin City. I am happy to report that the film is exactly what I hoped it would be, it eradicated all of the worries I had about it before seeing it on the opening night, and added yet another marvelous experience. It is more of the same great stuff that we have seen in Sin City, and it certainly does live up to the expectations of most of the fans. If you are one of them, I testify that you are going to have a great time. If you are a stranger to Sin City, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with it by reading the graphic novels and/or seeing the original film prior to seeing A Dame to Kill For.
“Turn the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything.” Luckily, “anything” includes a great prequel/sequel that continues the brilliant vision of Miller and Rodriguez, and provides more enjoyment than most of the films released this season, or even this year. Being a Freshman, I am very happy to have ditched out on the move-in day to see this wonderful work of art on its opening night for the first time. And I can’t wait to enjoy it once again.