Walking into Sin City A Dame to Kill For, I was a little confused. Was it going to be a prequel? A sequel? Somewhere in-between the two?
As it turns out, it was all of the above.
In a similar format to the first film, the story breaks into acts involving different timelines and characters. Some take place before the events of the first film, and some after. Jessica Alba’s character Nancy Callahan (still looking FANTASTIC nine years later!) continues to suffer and plot revenge against Senator Roark, who wronged her and her hero John Hartigan (Bruce Willis)– a man who continues to haunt her. Returning favourite Marv (played by Mickey Rourke) spends his nights drinking himself away, watching Nancy dance and looking for trouble.
Luckily, he finds a lot of it in A Dame to Kill For.
Josh Brolin makes his debut as the old face of Dwight– Clive Owen’s character from the first Sin City. Dwight is in constant conflict with his demons, and is under the hypnotic grasp of former flame Ava– played by the convincingly sensual and psychotic Eva Green. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a high stakes gambling aficionado named Johnny who also has his sights set on (who else?) the scheming Senator.
Most of the original cast is back and still looking as youthful as ever– aside from Mickey Rourke… Who’s age really starts to show this time around. Besides Brolin, there were a few other instances of recasting. With the unfortunate passing of Brittany Murphy, her character goes unacknowledged… But Michael Clarke Duncan’s character– a large role in the second film– had to be recast. Thankfully, they made a great choice to take over his role in Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit)– who plays Manute with his signature booming voice and domineering size, all with respect and skill. Another recast: Samurai toting siren Miho (one of the ladies of Old Town– originally played by Devon Aoki) is now portrayed by Jamie Chung. Chung does a great job, even if the change did prove to be a tad off-putting. On the plus side, there were many fantastic new additions to the cast– including Christopher Meloni in a VERY uncharacteristic role, Jeremy Piven (in a very characteristic role) and small parts by Christopher Lloyd, Lady Gaga, Stacy Keach and more.
Though A Dame to Kill For is very reminiscent of its predecessor, the creators found areas to improve on– and did. The stunning and mesmerizing black and white format and graphic novel setting are both played up, using new methods and technology to make it all pop more than ever before. With the environment and visuals so literal, the filmmakers get away with far more than any other creators could. Co-Directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller keep their signature gratuitous acrobatic fight scenes and car chases, creepy non-human characters, gunshot-ridden heroes (who never seem to die) and high-octane violence.
In any other format, none of this could be taken seriously– but this is comics. For those who are always searching for the Shangri-La of comic book and graphic novel adaptations, this is about as literal as you could possibly get… And I did hear great improvement in the dialogue. In the first film, the character’s speech tended to sound far more robotic- straight translations from the graphic novels. This time, the dialogue is a bit more natural… All helped by the stellar cast of actors delivering quality performances throughout– bringing Dame up a notch.
The film’s standouts are definitely Brolin and Green. It should be noted the actress spends most of the movie naked— and although the feminist inside of me wanted to scream, “THIS IS SO DEMEANING!”, it truly wasn’t. As is blatantly highlighted in Ava’s storyline, the women of Sin City are sexually assertive and utilize their sexuality and their bodies as weapons of domination and power. That said, their bodies are under their own control, and that’s refreshing. Aside from how physically attractive the women are, (from Rosario Dawson to Alba), their power and independence makes them that much sexier. I constantly had the Hall & Oates song Maneater stuck in my head… “Whoa-ooh here she comes!”
Power is a recurring theme of Sin City… And veteran actor Powers Boothe (a name made for a villain) expertly plays the menacing, maniacal Senator Roark as a constant reminder that power is about fear as much as it is about money. He is truly terrifying, even if everyone seemingly wants to snatch his power right out from under his nose. Nancy Callahan is drinking her life away until she gets up the guts to take him out, while Johnny simply wants to prove that he is better than him. Marv, well… He just wants to spill some blood. (You have to love that about him.)
There may be some repetition in the stories told in A Dame to Kill For, but they stay true to their perspective and their vision, and I commend that. The different vignettes come together far better this time around, making the movie feel much more cohesive. I sincerely hope to see more Sin City films, or at least more movies from Miller and Rodriguez that showcase both their artistic visions. – Danielle Young