Past the Popcorn – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

by Jeff Walls

Based on the popular graphic novels by Frank Miller, the 2005 movie Sin City was something of a revelation in cinema.  Director Robert Rodriguez had his actors perform in front of a green screen and then added the rest of the film elements digitally.  The result was a visually stunning film that completely captured the stylized images of Miller’s books.  Nine years later, co-directors Miller and Rodriguez bring us back to their world with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a movie that matches the stunning visuals of the original… but unfortunately lacks interesting enough stories to make it worth it.

a-dame-to-kill-for-insetMany of the same actors and characters return for the sequel, which opens with Mickey Rourke’s fan-favorite Marv getting caught up in another violent situation with no clue how he got there.  Later in the movie, Marv teams up with Jessica Alba’s exotic dancer Nancy, who is still looking to get some revenge on the powerful family that wronged her in the first film.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows up as a new character, Johnny, a gambler who is looking to score big in a poker game against a very specific opponent.

Those plots surround and cross paths with the movie’s titular story.  The dame to kill for is Ava, a femme fatale played by Eva Green.  Using her sexuality to get men to do what she wants, she lures ex-lover Dwight into a plot to kill her husband.  At first it seems to be all about his money, but as the story continues it becomes clearer and clearer that Ava is just a sociopath who loves seducing men and getting them to kill for her.

When the original Sin City hit theaters in 2005, I was immediately infatuated.  Its gorgeous and inventive black and white imagery, coupled with the stylized voice-over dialogue, appealed to the film noir buff inside of me.  It was also something that looked new, and that was much appreciated.  Subsequent viewings, however, have exposed the movie’s lack of any real substance in terms of story.  The visuals do hold up, but so many other movies are now using its visual techniques that the visuals by themselves are not enough to qualify it as a great movie.

That is where the sequel suffers.  It still looks great, but aside from being shot in 3D—something else every big movie now has going for it—there is nothing new to make it stand out.  With the visuals losing their power to keep the audience’s interest, the story must pick up the slack.  And although there are a few clever moments in the story, on the whole it is flat.  Moving from one over-the-top action scene to another with some scenes of sex and nudity thrown in for good measure, the movie gives us nothing in its narrative to latch on to.

There’s really not much to say about Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.  If you are still a fan of the original and are looking for more of the same, then I highly recommend it.  If the visuals no longer leave you dazzled and you are looking for more substance, it might be best to steer clear of this sequel.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is playing now at the AMC Southcenter 16 and the AMC Kent Station 14. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again?

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