Review - Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), R, 102 minutes - Nine years after its predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For finally made its way to theaters last weekend. Those with either a keen eye or memory (or both) may remember that this film was one of the honorable mentions on my Most Anticipated Films of 2013 list. That was before further delays pushed its release to the end of this summer (and a repeat appearance on this year's list). Sin City: A Dame to Kill For showcases the same grim, gritty, stylized violence that fans of Frank Miller's work have come to expect on either the page or the screen.

Much like 2005's Sin City, the key with this film is to remember that it is an anthology, a collection of stories occurring in the same universe, even overlapping at times with the events appearing in that film.  As a result, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is not a typical sequel or prequel.  This installment is comprised of the following stories: Just Another Saturday Night (one of Miller's shorts from the Booze, Broads, & Bullets collection), The Long Bad Night (Part I), A Dame to Kill For (adapting the graphic novel of the same name), The Long Bad Night (Part II), and Nancy's Last Dance. If The Long Bad Night and Nancy's Last Dance stories don't ring a bell, its for good reason: they have no graphic novel counterpart as they were newly written for the movie by Miller.

Directed once again by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, the look and feel of A Dame to Kill For echoes that of the original Sin City. Shot in black and white with a splash of accentuating color here and there, it's a successful effect in portraying the graphic novel roots of these stories. This time around the highlights of color were almost too frequent in my opinion. There were a number of occasions when a character was shown in color but they weren't the focus of the scene. It just felt a bit distracting to me.  Otherwise, the adaptation of Just Another Saturday Night was spot on, as was that of A Dame to Kill For (for the most part). Having no previous knowledge of The Long Bad Night segments, I felt that they fit into Miller's Sin City universe quite well. Nancy's Last Dance didn't fit in quite as well for me, but I can't put my finger on why.

A Dame to Kill For boasts a very large and fairly recognizable cast. Mickey Rourke (Marv), Jessica Alba (Nancy), Bruce Willis (Hartigan), Rosario Dawson (Gail), Powers Boothe (Senator Roark), Jamie King (Goldie/Wendy), and Jude Ciccolella (Lt. Liebowitz) all reprise their roles while Josh Brolin (Dwight), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny), Eva Green (Ava), Dennis Haysbert (Manute), Ray Liotta (Joey), Christopher Meloni (Mort), Jeremy Piven (Bob), Christopher Lloyd (Kroenig), Juno Temple (Sally), Stacy Keach (Wallenquist), Marton Csokas (Damien Lord), and Jamie Chung (Miho) join the fray. Green, Brolin, Boothe, and Gordon-Levitt were the strongest of the bunch but they were also given the most time to shine. Green especially was the perfect embodiment of the seductive and manipulative Ava Lord.  This is the second Miller-based film she's starred in this year (along with 300: Rise of an Empire), and she's certainly not afraid to bare all.  Speaking of which, there's a pretty decent amount of nudity in this film, so along with the stylized violence this isn't a comic book flick to take the kids to.

Such a lengthy stretch between a film and its follow up is fairly uncommon, and it definitely adds a few obstacles for A Dame to Kill For to navigate. First and foremost, there were a number of changes to the cast (which I will elaborate on in the spoiler section below). Between new faces and the overlapping of story timelines with those of the original film, it can sometimes be confusing as to who is doing what and when. My only real complaint is that it doesn't bring anything new to the table. It very easily could have been called Sin City: More of the Same. Considering the length of time between installments, that's a little disappointing. All in all though, I did enjoy Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, as I'd expect most anyone would who enjoyed either the original or the source material.  If you don't have any previous Sin City experience, I wouldn't suggest running out to a theater to check this out.  In that case, a rental would be a much safer bet.












*****SPOILERS*****

- The order in which the Sin City graphic novels were collected:
  • The Hard Goodbye
  • A Dame to Kill For
  • The Big Fat Kill
  • That Yellow Bastard
  • Family Values
  • Booze, Broads, & Bullets
  • Hell and Back
- The order in which stories were portrayed over the two movies:
  • Sin City
    1. The Customer Is Always Right (Part I) - from Booze, Broads, & Bullets
    2. That Yellow Bastard (Part I)
    3. The Hard Goodbye
    4. The Big Fat Kill
    5. That Yellow Bastard (Part II)
    6. The Customer Is Always Right (Part II)
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
    1. Just Another Saturday Night - from Booze, Broads, & Bullets
    2. The Long Bad Night (Part I)
    3. A Dame to Kill For
    4. The Long Bad Night (Part II)
    5. Nancy's Last Dance
- Characters portrayed by different actor/actresses in the two films:
  • Dwight - was Clive Owen in Sin City, now Josh Brolin - When I first heard that Josh Brolin would be taking over the role of Dwight, I thought that it made sense because in the graphic novels, Dwight undergoes reconstructive surgery at one point, leaving him with a completely different face.  The only problem is, that change in the character occurs in the middle of the A Dame to Kill For story line.   
  • Manute - was Michael Clarke Duncan, now Dennis Haysbert - the only reason for this change was that Clarke Duncan passed away in 2012.
  • Miho - was Devon Aoki, now Jamie Chung.
  • Bob - was Michael Madsen, now Jeremy Piven.
- Even in graphic novel format, Miller's Sin City stories overlapped here and there.  But on film, the timeline becomes more disjointed.  If you look at each story as it's own tale and don't try to make sense of things chronologically you'll save yourself quite the headache.  Just as an example - beyond the changes in actors/actresses for some parts - at least three characters that appear in this film actually died in the first (Marv, Hartigan, Goldie).

- Directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller both have cameos in the film.  Miller is sitting at a table in Kadie's with Marv in the 'Just Another Saturday Night' segment and then both Rodriguez and Miller appear in the film that Nancy is watching in the 'Nancy's Last Dance' Segment.

- The classic Sin City phrase 'Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything' is mentioned a couple of times.

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