In the nine years since the original Sin City was released, we’ve seen the Dark Knight rise and reboot, the Avengers Assemble, and Spider-Man become Amazing. Even though a sequel was spoken about almost immediately after the original was released, for one reason or another, be it a script that took close to six years to finalise – should Rodriguez be believed – casting setbacks, or the Weinstein’s not playing ball, it has taken until now for A Dame to Kill For to arrive.
• Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
• Exhibition: 3D
• Rating: 18
• Run Time: 102 minutes
Acting as both a prequel and sequel to 2005’s Sin City, A Dame to Kill For follows the same structure of the first movie by having separate yarns interweave to create an overall narrative – unfortunately, to a lesser effect than its predecessor. This is due, in part, to the two new stories created especially for the movie by Frank Miller himself. They don’t feel as organic as the other tales, instead feeling like tales that have been shoehorned into the story to remind and re-establish a villain, and give the audience a new reason to hate him – as if we needed one.
The problem with the prequels, I feel, is they negate any feeling of real tension; we’ve seen these characters before, we know their stories, and we know how they end. This, in turn, makes it hard to become emotionally invested in the characters again – we already know they’re going to win. Maybe this is reasoning for the inclusion of the aforementioned new stories; characters we have never met before give us someone new to worry about, but I’m just speculating.
The pacing of A Dame to Kill For feels completely off. Opening with a bang, and some of the best 3D I’ve ever seen, we see Mickey Rourke as Marv doing what he does best. The first story builds a level of excitement that, unfortunately, peters out during the following yarn, featuring Joseph Gordon Levitt. It’s a complete tonal shift, slowing down the action to a snail’s pace, but upping the tension quite a bit.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is great as Johnny, a newcomer to Sin City with his own agenda. The story ends on a perilous note, as is to be expected from the series, and it’s straight into the titular A Dame to Kill For story, and this is where the cracks in the movie begin to show.
The story itself goes on far too long. I loved the episodic structure of the original Sin City, with two good sized stories sandwiched between the That Yellow Bastard yarn. It kept the storytelling tight, and acted as a good way to jump between the eight years that Bruce Willis’s character John Hartigan was in jail. That isn’t the case here.
The main tale takes up the majority of the movie, and it really isn’t that interesting. Josh Brolin’s Dwight makes bad decision after bad decision to the point I could no longer empathise with him. Eva Green massively over plays her role as Ava Lorde, taking the exaggerated 1950’s film noir style everyone else has adopted to levels beyond that of pantomime. It’s a shame, because she’s an amazing actress, and stole the show in 300: Rise of an Empire, which was based off another of Frank Millers graphic novels, Xerxes. She’s just a little too much here.
There are quite a lot of casting changes, which sadly has an adverse effect of the overall impact of the movie. The most noticeable change is that of Manute, originally portrayed by the late Michael Clarke Duncan, who sadly passed away before production began, and now played by Dennis Haybert, a highly competent actor best known for his role as President David Palmer in 24, who really tries his best to be menacing but sadly lacks the dominating presence of Clarke Duncan.
Other noticeable changes include Miho, now played by Jamie Chung due to Devon Aoki being pregnant during production, and Jeremy Piven as Bob, who I didn’t even realise was supposed to be playing the same character brought to life by Michael Madsen in the first movie.
Another issue I had was the continuity of the last story. It features Marv, set before his story in the original Sin City, but the appearance and actions of Nancy completely contradict when the two characters are together in Nancy’s apartment, right before Marv goes to see Cardinal Roark in Sin City. It’s a minor complaint, I know, but it’s a shame to see Frank Miller completely screw up his own time line, and if I noticed it, I guarantee many more people did too.
A Dame to Kill For isn’t a bad movie by any means, in fact it’s actually rather good. The tone is excellent, helped in part by Robert Rodriguez’s score, and Mickey Rourke absolutely steals the show again. The visual style is simply stunning, and the advancement in visual technique and CG in the nine years between movies really shows. Especially the 3D. I’ll never look at snow the same way again.
It is, however, a victim of its predecessor’s success. We’d never seen anything like Sin City before, and it’s held in such high regard as one of, if not the best comic book adaptation of all time that it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve been here before. The movie oozes with a feeling of ‘me too!’, and in doing so fails to find its own identity, which is a crying shame because with a little more thought A Dame to Kill For could have been something great, instead of simply being good.
Tags: a dame to kill for, comics, Frank Miller, graphic novels, rober rodriguez, sin city
A lot of your criticisms were spot on, I didn’t notice the continuity error you pointed out but found the change of actors to be jarring, like you, I didn’t realise that some characters were supposed to be the same people as in the first film.
As you say good but not great, It is nice to have more of something I love, but I don’t love this quite as much. That snow though! = )