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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

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Another crazy night in Basin City, as a gambler beats the wrong man, an old lover returns to Dwight’s life with a hidden agenda and Nancy craves revenge for the death of her hero Hartigan.

A Dame to Kill For is broken into these clearly identifiable segments, with the continuing story of Nancy and the introduction of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Johnny being the book-ends to the main attraction. The inner narrative taking the bulk of the film, starring Josh Brolin as Dwight, previous to his new face that Clive Owen portrayed in the first film. Eva Green is perfectly cast as manipulative Ava Lord and her stunning confidence brings the comic book femme fatale fully to life in magnificent fashion. The “A Dame to Kill For Segment” is almost panel for frame from the page. Its mesmerising visual similarities are a delight for comic book fans starved for faithful adaptations of their beloved stories. For cinema goers who are unfamiliar with the source material the entire film offers a pulp noir that thoroughly entertains.

The main problem with the main segment of the movie is sadly Josh Brolin, who is not as strong in the role as many hoped. The issues of continuity cause chaos when trying to understand the timeline for those who have not read the books, as Brolin looks far older than Owen did in the original, despite Owen playing an older version of the character. Brolin has had a mix of hits and flops in recent years, and is striving to find some consistency. Sin City gives him the freedom to go a little crazy in the bizarre world of comic book noir films, but he doesn’t quite bring the best out of a younger Dwight living right on the edge of sanity and desperately trying not to let the monster out. Eva Green however is fantastic and steals the screen, her smart, cold, sexual and manipulative Ava comes straight from the page and tantalises with confidence and supposed vulnerability. Chris Meloni, one of cinemas most underappreciated actors, is superb in his small role as Mort; the investigating detective caught in Ava’s web. His appearance is all too short however and has absolutely no impact on the rest of the film. As good as Meloni is, he is totally wasted in the film and without him nothing would change in the films story, at all.

With Marv and Dwight teaming up for an assault on the Lord mansion, the punches fly as freely as the blood splatters. Marv and Manute (now played by Dennis Haysbert following the tragic death of Michael Clarke Duncan) face off in a deliriously Sin City, B-Move fight that had everyone in the cinema off their seats in excitement. As a fan of the comics it was a true delight to see what can only be described as the closest comic book adaptation yet. A Dame to Kill For is fantastic pulp nonsense, filled with sex, violence and wonderfully over the top characters straight from the books. The films problems come when Miller decides to go off book for the other tales told.

Senator Roark is the main antagonist of both the side stories, but he becomes a weak and rather pathetic character by the end of it all. Everything we learned about him in the first film is undone as his love for family is solely given to dead paedophile son, Junior, the Yellow Bastard. His motives become convoluted and rather silly; becoming more obsessed with his reputation than his family orientated goals of the first film. Frankly Gordon-Levitt would have made a far more interesting villain than protagonist and his entire segment simply feels out of place and rather boring. Its anti-climactic ending is supposed to induce a shock to the audience, but there seemed to be more relief from them as we returned to Nancy’s story.

It is within Nancy’s story where the continuity of the franchise is all but lost. Knowing that Senator Roark used his power and influence to ensure that Marv was sentenced to death, and having seen said death, we are now supposed to accept that he survived the electric chair to fight by Nancy’s side in her quest for vengeance, but this comes with zero explanation. Roark and Marv spend most of the movie in Kadie’s, yet neither notice each other. Yet this is not the worst element of Marv being introduced to Nancy’s story, it completely belittles her development as a character and basically retells the story of the first film. That Nancy, as smart as she is, relies on a man to protect herself. Surely after losing the man she loved she would now have more reason and purpose to take control of her own life and fight her own demons alone. Instead she becomes an alcoholic self-harmer, which simply felt like a half-baked idea. She is turned into the female equivalent to Marv from the first film, only to resurface as a psychotic dominatrix. Then when she finally has Roark alone, she needs help to finish the job, making her appear utterly useless. What could have been the best scene in the franchise is reduced to an overly-talkative and anti-climactic conclusion.

Despite the continuity issues and the weakness of the book-end stories, the internal narrative of Dwight and Ava is superb and everything fans of the comics hoped for. It offers an eccentric, dark and wonderful world of chaos, violence, corruption and sex to feast your eyes on while telling a thoroughly excellent noir tale. Marv may be overused, but his popularity almost demanded more screen time in the second Sin City filmic instalment.

Rating: 7/10

 

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