Published on August 28th, 2014 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
This review of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hurts Ian more to write than it hurts Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller to read.
It’s easy to write a bad review about a Michael Bay film, particularly one like Transformers: Age of Extinction. You go in expecting it to be bad and then it ends up making even less sense than you ever could have possibly expected. It’s a terrible mess of a film that has unjustifiably made way too much money. And there’s the core question that film can’t seem to answer…
Why the f@#K is it almost three hours long?
In any case, this leads back to the original point that it’s easy to write a review about a crappy movie made by a filmmaker you have little or no respect for. But when it’s creators you do respect? That’s a different issue.
The first film adaptation of Frank Miller’s neo-noir graphic novel series Sin City came out in 2005. It’s take on classic pulp crime stories and unique visuals garnered praise from critics and did reasonably well at the international box office for a property not that well known outside of comic reading circles. While it did receive criticism for the level of violence it portrayed, many were quick to forgive it as that violence fit the story. And Mickey Rourke was pretty awesome in it. Sin City was the perfect material for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to adapt to film, directing the feature alongside Miller.
Now it’s 2014 and the long-awaited sequel has finally been released. This time, Tarantino is not involved and much of the film is new content written by Miller for the sequel.
It’s not very good.
Each of the stories in Sin City were complete into and of themselves, interwoven in such a fashion that a narrative greater than any single story is told. The same is not true in A Dame to Kill For. Where the 2005 film is a series of tight stories framed in one city told out of order, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a chronological mess. It plays with the timeline inside the film as well as between the two films in the most convoluted of fashions. It’s hard to follow, hard to work out, and, at its absolute best, confusing.
Beyond the story, seeing this film in 3D is detrimental to the experience. The film noir, pulp crime aesthetic is completely destroyed by the impact of the 3D process. Unlike most comic book adaptations, Sin City is a direct take on a very specific series of stories, which were not told in 3D. The nature of the art in Sin City as a graphic novel functions better as a 2D image, both on the page and on the screen. The 3D takes away from that by adjusting the look and the textures of the noir. 3D isn’t necessary for every film that comes out. Heck, it’s not necessary at all. Stop making films with it, already. Sin City is just another in a long line of films that shows how 3D adds nothing to the storytelling process except a few bucks to the price of a movie ticket. Unfortunately, this is one time where 3D is absolutely damages the story.
Another issue for the film is the number of new actors playing familiar character from a previous instalment, some for good reasons and others more inexplicable. Without going into spoilers, it makes sense for Josh Brolin to be replacing Clive Owen. And it also makes sense for the late Michael Clarke Duncan to be recast. But where’s Devon Aoki, whose character was also recast? While there are several great actors in this film, they are either underutilized or misused. It simply lacks the depth the cast of the first film had.
A lot of the success the first film had came from the details, the little cinematographical choices and visuals throughout the film that made it a unified experience. Those kinds of touches are lacking in A Dame to Kill For.
Maybe they were just lost in the 3D. Maybe they just weren’t there in the first place.
A Dame to Kill For is just unpolished and rough but not in the way you’d expect from a noir film. All of the visual brilliance that transcended the violent content lacks the lustre it had in 2005, mostly because this movie is a dull and muddy imitation of something that was unique and innovative at the time.
Part of the problem might be the new stories written specifically for the film. ‘A Dame to Kill For’ and ‘Just Another Saturday Night’ are based on content from the graphic novels and they work relatively well on screen, though ‘A Dame to Kill For’ drones on a little long. Other stories are new for the film. While they have potential, they lack the edge or the cohesiveness of Miller’s other work. Simply put, they’re just not as good as the adaptations and fall short. This was constructed to shove as much of Mickey Rourke as Marv down your throat as possible, no matter how convoluted the plot has to be to get him there.
In the end, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For simply came out five years too late. Any momentum built by the 2005 film was lost long ago and people just aren’t interested anymore, as evidenced by the bomb this film has dropped at the box office. It’s too bad as Sin City is a far different animal than most of the comic book and graphic novel adaptations making their way to movie screens these days. It would have been an exceptional palate cleanser. Instead, this film just left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s a hollow experience that pales in comparison to the first film iteration.
And given the respect I have for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, that’s an extremely difficult statement to write.