Frank Miller’s ‘Sin City’, released in 2005, was first realized as an ultra gritty graphic novel with extremely stylized compositions, super contrasted color pallet (mostly black & white), unforgettably complex characters, and a never-ending supply of sex & violence. So basically, it’s fun for the whole family! Indie director, Robert Rodriguez (known for his attraction to an interesting stylized violence) teamed up with Frank Miller himself to bring the graphic novel to life on film. The film was to match Miller’s drawings in as close a manner as possible; meaning that most would be in black & white, with the exception of the occasionally intentional splash of color to accent an important element like red lips, gold hair, a dress… or blood. New technological methods were instituted to achieve the extreme look, and was praised for being the first film of its kind. Director Zach Snyder would use this concept of ‘literal interpretation’ for the film versions of ‘300’ (2006 – also authored by Miller) and ‘Watchmen’ (2009). The Sin City style also influenced the graphic novel and film versions of ‘The Spirit’ (2008 – directed by Miller).
Now, nine years after the release of ‘Sin City’, the sequel ‘A Dame to Kill For’ is brought to us by the same Miller/Rodriguez team. This, for the most part, does allow for a noticeable level of consistency between the films as the story continues. The sequel jumps right in to reintroducing Marv (Mickey Rourke), Nancy (Jessica Alba) and Dwight (now played by Josh Brolin). There are new characters like Johnny (Joseph Gorgon-Levitt) and Ava (Eva Green). And a dozen other actors: Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni… The list goes on and on, including some entertaining cameos. Everyone brings something unique to this insanely varied and colorful melting pot of characters, emphasizing the over-exaggeration of a graphic novel – something akin to theater acting more than film; but it’s appropriate for such a stylized project.
‘A Dame to Kill For’ takes place some years after ‘Sin City’; each character dealing with his or her own demons, losses, regrets. The format of the plot told through a jumbled set of vignettes, bouncing back and forth in time and context. Some questions are answered, and even more mysteries are revealed. The focus for many of the male characters, as is suggested by the film’s title, is the women that rule over them. The women they love, hate, fear, and quite simply can’t do without… And who would want to? These rough & tumble back-alley dogs are infatuated with the most alluring, scantly-clad, sex hungry, back-stabbing, powerful, and outright insane women in Sin City. There’s one major underlying theme to everyone’s story here – revenge… or, getting even, at least.
Though the majority of the film’s visual style is in line with that of the its predecessor, it lacks the same sense of simple edginess – the extreme contrast of hard ink lines that one finds in Miller’s graphic novels. This detail could perhaps be forgiven, if only the characters hadn’t felt like the watered-down version of their previously epic, eccentric, weird ,original selves. The ghost of Hartigan, played by Willis, serves practically no purpose other than to occasionally remind Nancy of the man that used to be. And I felt a serious longing for Clive Owen’s interpretation of Dwight. Even performances from Alba, Dawson and Rourke came across as just ‘ok’. Thankfully, there’s enough variety in the actor/character dynamic to keep things fresh, funny and interesting… not to mention a high-octane sense of flow through the several plot lines.
I think it’s fair to say that anyone who enjoyed ‘Sin City’ will also enjoy ‘A Dame to Kill For’, as the same needs for ultra violence, cheesy one-liners, female breasts, ridiculously over-the-top action scenes (as only Rodriguez could deliver) are more than satisfied. Being created in studios and against blue screen (possibly green screen?) with a major post-production and CG presence, this movie is literally made to be that much more engaging in 3D – though I’m sure my 2D purists won’t be disappointed. The only advice I can give is that watching ‘Sin City’ right before ‘Dame’ is probably a good idea, as there are minor plot progressions easily forgotten about… and a few twists as well. But because the two films are so very similar, there actually isn’t much that feels terribly unique about ‘Dame’. I’ll let you decide. Enjoy!