Movie Review: “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” – City of Few Sins

Written by Leo Panasyuk August 29, 2014

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Frank Miller’s neo-noir graphic novel “Sin City” was first brought to life in 2005 by Robert Rodriguez, whose use of black and white (with a few choice splashes of colour) evoked the dark and dreary atmosphere of Basin City and all its vile and vicious inhabitants. Now, nearly a decade later, Rodriguez revisits the “Sin City” universe for a second telling of crime, deception, love, and violence. For those who have seen the first film this will feel like a stroll down a familiar street, but those new to Miller’s neo-noir universe will find many thrills and plenty of spills amid a slightly unbalanced but ultimately enjoyable film.

“Sin City’s where you go in with your eyes open”

There are five plots (or stories, if you will) that the film revolves around: ‘Just Another Saturday Night’ follows Marv (Mickey Rourke) as he doles out some Sin City street justice; ‘The Long Bad Night’ (split into two parts) features “Sin City” newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a card shark who goes up against the biggest poker player in the city, with deadly results; the eponymous ‘A Dame to Kill For’ story focuses on femme fatale Ava Lord (Eva Green) and her ex-lover Dwight (Josh Brolin) and the plot of love and murder that follows; and ‘Nancy’s Last Dance’ bring back Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) as a vengeful exotic dancer, looking to avenge the death of someone very close to her from the previous film.

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“One of these days she’ll pull the trigger”

On their own, the stories are interesting enough to keep your attention, though some certainly outshine others. ‘Just Another Saturday Night’ is, ironically, just another tale of vengeance and violence and doesn’t really hold any emotional weight to it – sure, it’s great to see Marv coldly re-enact the crushing finale of “The Mountain and the Viper,” but it gets old quick as not even his melodramatic monologues are moving enough to coax you past the bloody black-and-white violence. ‘The Long Bad Night’ and ‘Nancy’s Last Dance’ are a bit more interesting as you begin to feel for the characters and root them on as they do battle with their respective evils. Jessica Alba’s performance as the broken and bitter Nancy was one of the film’s standout performances, while Gordon-Levitt simply played the cocky, confident character we know and love him as. However, it is the combined performances of Josh Brolin and Eva Green in ‘A Dame to Kill For’ that truly steal the show.

It being the name of the film, ‘A Dame to Kill For’ is the strongest of the five stories, as it is ripe with classic noir tropes: adultery, deception, betrayal, love and lust, and of course, murder. Eva Green steals nearly every scene she’s in, tapping into her inner angel and demon for whatever the scene requires. Though her gratuitous nudity is a bit distracting and unnecessary at times, it fits her bill quite well, as she is a woman whose ultimate power is sex – and in Sin City, sex not only sells, but it can kill. Josh Brolin’s performance as the tortured and tempted Dwight feels genuine and sympathetic, as he is a man torn between resisting his inner demons and resisting Ava, whom he claims “owns him.” While their chemistry isn’t particularly top-notch – as one feels like an unstoppable force and the other an immovable object – they play their roles well enough to convince you of their contempt and obsession of one another, and it becomes an interesting game to see which of them can one-up the other better.

You'll see some familiar faces while you're in town.

You’ll see some familiar faces while you’re in town.

“It’s a good game”

With a beautiful, noir-inspired soundtrack laden with jazzy chords and an excellent use of framing and cinematography that lets you peer into these characters’ subconscious, this film becomes one of those rare treats that shows how neo-noir is meant to be done, without holding anything back. As well, the film’s clever censorship of the gore in its action sequences, complete with the many impressive visual tricks prove that bloodier is not always better, especially in Sin City.

Overall

Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is an exciting and enthralling follow-up to the 2005 film, though with many similar tricks, it’s difficult to absolve the film completely of its sins. With good pacing and a deep faithfulness to the source material, Frank Miller fans won’t be disappointed with another trip to Basin City, even if it’ll feel like more of the same thing they saw the first time around. With the summer movie season at a close, perhaps something like Rodriguez’s film is fitting to take us into the hard-edged and serious tone of the fall film season.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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