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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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Robert Rodriguez, like Hollywood in general, needs to stop revisiting stories and focus on original material. In 2011, Rodriguez dusted off his family-friendly “Spy Kids” franchise in hopes of a new trilogy of films. The film grossed less than half of the lowest grossing original three films. After the surprising B-Movie actioneer “Machete” amassed a small profit, all goodwill and spark was destroyed with the atrocious “Machete Kills.” So, after nine years of requests, Rodriguez finally returns to the world of “Sin City.” With a property so solid, it stands to reason that a sequel could escape his sequel blunders.

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“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” follows the same format as the original. Borrowing heavily to the point of duplication, the sequel transforms Frank Miller’s comic series into living, breathing pictures. Serving as mostly a prequel (with one vignette being a sequel to the stories of the first film), we find for four stories. The opening story revisits Marv (Mickey Rourke) as he recalls an altercation with some frat boys. Second, Johnny (Josephy Gordon-Levitt) is a man whose luck with gambling is juxtaposed with his luck in all other things. Third is another tale about Dwight (this time played by Josh Brolin) and his temptress ex-lover Ava Lord (Eva Green). Finally the sole sequel story, Nancy Callahan’s story as she attempts to grieve and avenge Hartigan (Bruce Willis).

Most essential when attempting to watch this second film is an understanding of the book series. Unlike most adaptations, a lack of knowledge of the source material will alienate members of the audience. Characters that were killed in the first film and recasting of a handful of roles creates a drastic disconnect. To clear this up, a couple of things must be understood first.

  1. Nancy’s story takes place after her story in the first film. Everything else in the film either exists independent of the timeline or occur prior to the events of the first film.
  2. Though Clive Owen doesn’t reprise his role, Josh Brolin’s casting isn’t out of place. Alluded to in the first film and played out somewhat in this feature, Dwight undergoes dramatic facial surgery, rendering him completely different. The makeup tries and ultimate fails to convey this.

Without these two points, the film feels completely contrived and desperate for appeal. Fans of the original film will notice a slew of micro-cameos by characters and actors from the canon. But the main casting, with the exception of Brolin, breathe the universe in a convincing computer generated atmosphere. The rich noir aesthetic with only sparse elements of color is visually unique in the same manner as before. The violence and sexuality are as explicit and arresting as the MPAA would allow a rated R movie to display. It isn’t surprising that Ava Lord too so long to cast. A role that has almost more scenes in the nude than clothed but must also appear cold and manipulative are not something an actor can phone in. Eva Green, the Bond girl to break 007’s heart, perfectly captures the sexuality and deviousness. At the other end of the spectrum, Mickey Rourke once again creates carnage as the barbaric thug Marv.

Stacked with a cast that would crowd any marquee, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is the belated continuation of film that has been diluted by imitation over the past decade. Solid story, despite the aforementioned continuity, that celebrates the source material. The box office this opening weekend has only confirmed the stale brand and the lack of interest, another nail in the coffin of Robert Rodriguez’s sequel quest. With luck, this film will eventually find its place alongside the superior predecessor. Yet another summer sequel to underperform. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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