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Despite bad 'Sin City' box office, Eva Green remains good as gold

Jeff York's caricature of Eva Green in "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For"
Chicago Horror Movie Examiner Jeff York

“Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” may have come up short at the box office this past weekend with only about $6.48 million, but that’s not Eva Green’s fault. Blame the sequel arriving nine long years after the original. Green, on the other hand, got rave reviews for her performance as the title character. Now, she just needs to find a big screen vehicle that matches her abundant talents.

That may be harder than you’d think, as she is quite an actress. In fact, she imbued her femme fatale character with something that I’m not sure Frank Miller put on his original pages about Ava Lord – genuine sympathy. There was something a little sad in her eyes, even though they’re impossibly large and were tinted animalistic green in Robert Rodriguez’ stylish film noir. (Or was it just a visual play on the actress’ name?) And that made a cliched role quite fascinating, despite the lesser returns of the sequel.

Green’s Ava Lord is a man-eater, most assuredly, but she invested the stares and pauses of her character with a backstory that suggests her bad girl might have become that way because of a bad man. When she tells a detective lies about her old boyfriend Dwight (Josh Brolin) strangling her and knocking her to the ground, it’s not the truth of the moment. But it may have been at some point in this woman’s past, as Green’s trembling voice makes it clear it’s painful for Mrs. Lord to even utter such words.

The 34 year-old British actress is having quite a golden year, what with big roles in film (this sequel, as well as the one to "300") and television ("Penny Dreadful" on Showtime). She first became known to American moviegoers for her eye-catching role in “The Dreamers” (2003) and her matching wits and quips with Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” (2006). Arguably, she was the best Bond girl in three decades. And she’s certainly been the best thing in most everything she’s done since. There wasn’t much to recommend Tim Burton’s ill-conceived spoof on “Dark Shadows” in 2012, but Green seemed to be the only one in it who brought even a modicum of fright to the comic frightener.

Green has made a career out of spinning movie gold out of so much straw, and in “300: Rise of an Empire”, she added depth and danger to a sequel whose conclusion was inevitable. As the movie's villainess, she even managed to out-steel the intrepid Lena Headey. In fact, Green has quickly become one of those actresses whom you cannot take your eyes off of when she’s on screen. Even when she’s acting with huge talents such as a Johnny Depp or Michael Sheen on film, she manages to burn up the screen with her smoldering sensuality or her indomitable will.

Her best role to date is in the scary TV series “Penny Dreadful” that premiered this past winter on Showtime. That freshman show has had fits and starts during its eight-episode launch, but once Green’s Vanessa Ives channeled a demon at the séance in the second episode, it became her show. She thrashed and spoke in tongues, conjuring up so much terror that surely after that show creator John Logan realized that no vampire, wolfman or Frankenstein’s monster could possibly hope to be as scary or as compelling as she was. It seemed he started shaping the rest of the series around her more than its ensemble origins.

Green is a fearless actress, as she was in that seance scene, as she is in so many of her scenes, unafraid to really put it all on the line. She’s utterly daring, challenging the audience to watch her, to understand her even when she is hideous or abominable. For such a beauty, she’s truly a sight to see when her eyes bug out in madness, and her petite frame writhes with abandon.

And in an age when nudity has turned half of Hollywood's actresses into prudes, and the other half into paparazzi playthings, Green has managed to make appearing nude quite meaningful. It helps of course that she’s got a gorgeous body. But more importantly, Green uses her body to tell us about her character, be it positive or negative.

In the “300” sequel, she uses her sensual maneuvers as another weapon in her arsenal to try to conquer the susceptible war commander played by Sullivan Stapleton. In “Penny Dreadful”, her nakedness demonstrated just how far gone the character of Vanessa was through the devil’s seduction, first as he filled her up, then as he tore her into a gaunt and bruised toy.

She’s completely unclothed twice in the “Sin City” sequel, and both times it’s attended to take the breath away of both Dwight and the audience. She waits for him in bed with no sheets demurely covering her up. It's quite a sight to see. And in the last five minutes of her story arc, her dame emerges from the pool as naked as a Jaybird and you wonder for a moment or two if her old lover will kill her or take her back. To make an inevitable conclusion even partially unknown is a testament to her searing talent.

And considering her feminine wiles, Green rarely purrs or talks soft in her roles. There's precious little that is girlish about her. In fact, she is almost always strong, often strident, with a commanding voice full of clipped diction, even when she's got demons coursing through her blood. Green might not yet have the career of Jennifer Lawrence or Amy Adams, but she’s one big film away from being the most formidable and exciting actress in the business.

Lucky her. Lucky us.