With Marvel and DC comics competing with movie renditions of graphic novels, it’s easy to forget that there are more than two publishers. Dark Horse is responsible for bringing Frank Miller’s Sin City series into print and in 2005, the a few of the stories were brought to the big screen. The movie was received well enough to merit a sequel almost 9 years later. A Dame to Kill For brought back several familiar faces such as Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke to reprise their roles but also brought in new actors. The nice thing about Sin City 2 was that Frank Miller was able to write new stories exclusively for the movie so fans of the graphic novel would be able to watch something fresh.
Just like the first Sin City, A Dame to Kill for was split into a few segments with the main story in the middle. The visual black and white style from the first movie was kept for the sequel although there was a lot more use of “highlighted” colors in this one. For the most part, the movie stayed true to its printed origins. Although it was a nice touch for those that had actually read the stories and recognized the panels from the graphic novels, it turned into a problem in some instances.
Because the movie is split into segments that contain distinct and sometimes exclusive characters, the following overview will also be split into segments.
JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY NIGHT
The opening segment of A Dame to Kill For and presumable a small setup to show moviegoers what they were in for. In this story Marv (Mickey Rourke) wakes from a car crash to find the bodies of several young men around him. Due to a certain condition that he has, he isn’t able to recall what events led to him and he begins to retrace his steps.
Just like in the first Sin City movie Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller don’t skimp out on the violence of this segment. The fights that ensue as Marv tries to recall his memory are done fairly well although a little confusing. It’s a nice taste of what A Dame to Kill For is going to bring but it’s far from being engaging. Mickey Rourke, just like in the first movie, does an excellent job at playing Marv throughout the entirety of the movie. The real problem that arises from this segment is the whole “recalling” portion of the movie. Marv spends a nice chunk of time remembering what happened through the use of voice over narration and despite the nice little effects used to sort of ease the viewer, it was pretty boring to watch.
A DAME TO KILL FOR
The main story in this movie was dedicated to this one. Personally, when I read this graphic novel I wasn’t to impressed with the story. Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) is a private detective who gets an unexpected plea from help from his ex lover Ava Lord (Eva Green). She coaxes Dwight to help her escape from her crazy husband Damian Lord (Marton Csokas) but before he can help he also has to get through Damian’s monstrous chauffeur Manute (Dennis Haysbert) as well as some police officers that are caught by Ava Lord’s seduction.
Clive Owen (left) and Josh Brolin (right) next to the novel’s rendition of Dwight
Due to the nature of the timeline of Dwight’s character, Josh Brolin was brought on board to replace Clive Owen. In the graphic novel it is explained that McCarthy had to go through some reconstructive facial surgeries so it makes sense as to why Brolin was cast instead. His performance as Dwight wasn’t bad at all although it still bothers me that they didn’t bring in Clive Owen to play as McCarthy after the surgeries. Without that little detail it’s tough to even relate the characters from both movies let alone realize that they’re the same exact character. Eva Green also had a wonderful performance although her costume designs also helped sell the sleazy and manipulative Ava Lord. Despite this Eva Green might not have been the best actress for the role. She was certainly eye catching but there are several other actresses that might have fit the character a lot better. Manute is another major character in the Sin City universe and due to the death of Michael Clarke Duncan, Dennis Haysbert was brought on board to replace him. His acting was a little flat but Manute is a character that is better off being seen than heard and Haysbert didn’t do too bad.
Manute: Michael Clarke Duncan (left), Dennis Haysbert (right)
Overall, A Dame to Kill For followed the graphic novel almost perfectly and that’s part of the why it wasn’t as interesting as it ought to have been. In comic book panels there are certain things that an author can get away with, one of these is when a character talks or thinks to himself. In this portion of the movie there was a lot of voice over narration that considerably slowed down the movie. Sure it was in the comic books but these voice over narrations were long enough to drag the viewer at out of the story. At one point it felt like I was just watching an audio book. The action that eventually took place on screen ended up being pretty campy (good for some people, bad for others). For a story line that was supposed to be the largest chunk of the movie, A Dame to Kill For was surprisingly underwhelming.
THE LONG BAD NIGHT
The Long Bad Night is about a Johnny, a cocky and extremely lucky gambler, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who walks into the infamous Basin City in order to beat Senator Roark (Powers Booth) at a game of cards. When the Johnny humiliates Roark in front of his colleagues, he doesn’t take to kindly toward the young gambler and teaches him that trying to beat a Roark at his own game is dangerous.
Having seen Gordon-Levitt in movies like (500) Days of Summer or comedies such as That 70’s Show, its tough to picture him in a movie like Sin City but he pulls it off extremely well. Roles like this one make me believe that Gordon-Levitt is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood as of now. Powers Booth who reprises his role as Senator Roark also does a terrific job at portraying one of the most feared and respected men in Basin City. The tense moments that these two have on screen coupled with the peculiar story easily make this the best part of Sin City 2 despite the fact that there’s very limited violence in comparison with the rest of the film. If that wasn’t enough it was also entertaining to see Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Roger Rabbit) have a small part as well as a surprisingly well executed cameo from Lady Gaga.
NANCY’S LAST DANCE
Yet another original story by Frank Miller that gives some closure to the story of Nancy Callahan. Years after the suicide of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Nancy (Jessica Alba) tries her best to get over his death and deal with her depression. She decides that her best bet to get over Hartigan’s death is to kill Senator Roark (Powers Booth).
Nancy’s Last Dance might just be the second strongest story in the whole film. As a fan of the graphic novel, I was excited to finally get an ending to Nancy’s story in Sin City. I haven’t seen all of Jessica Alba’s movies but from what I can gather, this might have been one of her better acting performances. Her desperation and depression come across clearly and the build up to a showdown with Roark is engaging enough to keep the viewer’s attention. There were some strange things in this segment such as the whole ghost thing (Sixth Sense anyone?) but overall it was decent enough of a story that included minimal voice over narration.
Nancy Callahan and Marv
One of the first rules of screenwriting that are taught is to never use voice over narration. Many successful movies have ignored this rule without much backlash but unfortunately Sin City 2 is not one of those examples. The movie overall is passable. Fans of the graphic novel may appreciate the new stories but the VO narration seems like overkill throughout many parts of the movie and frankly, it makes it a chore to watch. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller did a great job with the first Sin City but the sequel seemed to be missing a lot of the gruesome story and brutal action that made the first one so good. Every actor did a good job at playing their role but it still felt like the casting of the new characters left a lot to be desired.
TL;DR: There are very few reasons to watch this on the big screen (i.e. Jessica Alba, The Long Bad Night). With the side stories being a lot more entertaining than the main one, its hard to imagine that we’ll be getting another Sin City movie any time soon.
Rock-It Raccoon Rating: 5.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%