"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" is part sequel and prequel to the first film that broke barriers in visual style nine years ago by utilizing digitally added backgrounds via green screen technology. From directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez they continue with everything that worked the first time and then some. Then some could be the incredible amount of executive producers listed, twenty of them, plus six producers. Not sure what all that executive power split up does for a film on the business side, but for us movie lovers, it equals one helluva a movie.
In the first film as in this one, we get more of Basin City, a wretched and corrupt burrow of a place; Money hungry, power driven, and desperate characters all mingle together creating mayhem and havoc for all its victims. Everyone in Basin City is a victim and those who survive do so by power, fist, weapon, or sex. Everything is over-the-top and that's what makes this "Sin City" so delectable.
Brilliantly imagined scenes follow the route of four main storylines that intertwine within the dark and gritty world imagined by Frank Miller and first created in his graphic novels. Three originate from his comics while the other was written for the screen. One is a continuation of the storyline from the first film that featured Bruce Willis as Hartigan. You may recall he was the cop determined to save the down trodden stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), in the first installment who died to save her.
Continuing on from there, and some years later we catch up to Nancy; scantily clad, strutting and swerving to loud banging music in a strip club while swigging away on a bottle of booze. A bar full of drunks stare, enthralled. She's caught up in the memory of Hartigan and how he died saving her. Part guilt, part of the stripper lifestyle we arrive into her storyline amidst her memories and phantom thoughts of Hartigan (brief appearances of Bruce Willis) and her hatred of Senator Roark, played again by Powers Booth.
Alba doesn't have a lot of lines. She has to rely on lots of physical acting which she does competently. Her dance moves are quite stiff and the camera doesn't stay with her overly long while doing any of them, however her real strength is her ability to gaze out and convey a loathing so deep you can feel the hatred for Senator Roarke coming off her in waves. Alba also gets opportunity to voice narrate her storyline. As Nancy, her voice acting is excellent and captures the tone and feel of the movie perfectly.
The film is called "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" and that woman is Ava played by Eva Green (Showtime's Penny Dreadful). Her ex, Dwight (Josh Brolin) thinks she's more trouble than she's worth. Ava wants something, and she'll go through anyone and do anything to get it. Enticing her ex, Dwight, and later police detective Mort (Christopher Meloni), are just mere stepping stones to an agenda we can only guess at any given moment. Ava is smart. She knows how to command her sexuality to take her places like no other.
Eva Green's performance and the numerous ways in which she flaunts and captivates her alabaster form are more than entertaining. Rodriguez found numerous ways to showcase her nakedness using gorgeous black and white palettes with splashes of green, red, and yellow. She reclines numerously and mostly nude inside of the pool, the bath tub, on top of the bed, and, and, and.... she's naked a lot in this movie. Is it gratuitous? Heck no. Her nudity of course makes total sense to her character and to have anything else just wouldn't be "Sin City." The overtly stylized characters and scenes are glamorous and striking and Eva Green, the actress, eats it up and gives a performance that one up's just about anything she's done previously. However, if you haven't caught her on Showtime's Penny Dreadful you are missing out.
Both actors Brolin and Green give stunning performances but it's hard to compete with Green, but if you concentrate hard enough and try not to stare into her vivid green eyes, you might have a moment to catch your breath and appreciate how deep Brolin takes his own character. Swinging, punching, but mostly getting pummeled, shot, cut, smashed and so much more, Brolin holds his own as Dwight. Together, on the screen they are fire, a fire that burns. You can see why Brolin has earned an Oscar nom, he's magnificent in this film (but also among many who do just as well).
Powers Booth takes up his role once again as the powerful Senator Roark. He's featured in two of the stories alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Johnny. Powers Booth is one of those actors who is good in every role he takes on, and when he plays a bad guy, he's really good. Something about his voice and those dark eyes and his ability to portray characters that have a deep, terrible agenda going on inside. His ability to convey intent with his eyes and expressions is just exciting to watch on the big screen. His ability to emit unease, and chaos is worthy of more roles than he's been given in recent years. Casting directors... take note. Powers Booth needs more large format opportunities.
Gordon-Levitt is just one among so many that act their asses off in this film. So many worthy performances it's hard to focus on writing about one. Levitt as Johnny is the young, lucky-as-can-be card shark, out to prove he's the best; or at least outshine someone he's watched his entire life growing up. He's swanky and you get the impression that if anyone could be good in Sin City, it would be Johnny. Is there no role that Gordon-Levitt doesn't do well at? The actor is stellar in everything he does.
Saving the best for last is Marv (Mickey Rourke) who's out to kick the ass of anything and everyone that gets on his bad side, especially the police, frat boys, and men who hit women. He's not a nice guy, but someone you'd want on your side in any event. Marv's seen it all, but still enjoys getting into the middle of it, especially when Dwight gets him drunk and entices him to rumble up at Ava's place. Marv was in the last film too and a fantastic character to bring back. Mickey Rourke in his second installment kills it literally with such style and bravado that you just can't imagine anyone else doing a better job. His voice-over narration is ripe with cracked, I've smoked one to many cigarettes in this lifetime - tones that he's completely believable as the behemoth that does as he pleases. In the many, full-out action scenes, Rourke delivers with his remarkable ability to physically act out the grueling role, throwing punches and taking them. There's a brilliant fight scene where he takes on Manute (Dennis Haysbert) that is particularly well staged and composed. The gruesomeness of it was stomach churning.
While there is so many excellent actors that make-up the cast, including Ray Liotta, who has a cool scene early on in the film, it's hard for me not to include all of them here as I feel like I am doing them a disservice by not mentioning them. It's just paramount to understand that this is truly an ensemble performance made up of many moving parts; and let's not forget that the most important one, "Sin City" began with Frank Miller and his ability to create, and write. As well as Robert Rodriguez impeccable ability to interpret that writing into a vivid and striking piece of art that is "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For." Although the style is not for everyone, I think all can appreciate how this film and story find itself among so many, as different, original, and creating its own sense of what a Noir film is, today in the 21st century. The stylization of page, turned into film, and the language it takes on is an achievement, even if it's a continuation of what began nine years ago. Go see it, and like me, I will see it again. 3D is a must and if ATMOS is available near you, pay the difference and make the drive. Request RealD 3D glasses. The one-piece "Made In China" stamped glasses are horrible <avoid>.
Additional Film Info:
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Stacy Keach, Jaime King, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Chung, Peremy Piven, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple, Marton Csokas, Jude Ciccolella, Julia Garner, Lady Gaga, Alexa Vega, Patricia Vonne, Bart Fletcher, Alejandro Rose-Garcia
Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Screenwriter: Frank Miller, and based on his graphic novels
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, Aaron Kaufman, Stephen L'Heureux, Sergei Bespalov, Alexander Rodnyansky, Mark Manuel
Executive producers: Frank Miller, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Zanne Devine, Adam Fields, Elizabeth Avellan, Marci Madison, Tim Smith, Alastair Burlingham, Oleg Boyko, Kia Jam, Kipp Nelson, Theodore O'Neal, Allyn Stewart, Samuel Hadida, Victor Hadida, Marina Bespalov, Boris Teterev, John Paul Dejoria, Jere Hausfater
Rated R, 102 minutes Opens Wide August 20th