Review: Sin City – A Dame to Kill For


Sin City has always had a special place in my heart. Way back in 2005, when the first film came out, I was in my senior yearo f high school, taking Film as Art. One of our assignments was to write a paper on a film we see in theaters, complete with ticket stub stapled to the front page as proof. As Sin City was in theaters, and I was a red-blooded eighteen-year-old, I thought “Heck, a movie based on a comic I’ve never read full of dudes that eat bullets for breakfast and hot, young thing Jessica Alba playing a stripper by the guy who made such films as Spy Kids? Sign me up!” Unfortunately, everybody was too busy or too disinterested to take me. With no reasonable options left, I asked my grandmother. She said yes, and ended up loving it (“That Marv, he was like a real superhero!). That sparked a tradition of going to see movies together with my grandmother. Some were racy (I can say I’m probably one of the only people in the world that’s seen Jason Segel’s penis with my grandmother, on the big screen at least), some were not, but we haven’t seen a movie yet that she hasn’t enjoyed.

Sadly, this year she came up to visit several weeks before Sin City: A Dame to Kill For came out, and sadder yet, I was on vacation while she was in town. So, with a heavy heart, I went to see the film I’ve been waiting nine years for with my best pal Patrick instead. Could it possibly match up to the sentimental and nostalgic factors I associated with the first film? Read on and find out!

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Director: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Release Date: August 22
Rating: R

If you’ve seen the first film, or read the comics, you should know exactly what to expect: macho men, well-armed prostitutes, and really bad bad guys. The sequel spins four more tales out of Basin City, two from the comics and two all-new stories. We start the film with a Marv (Mickey Rourke) short that is as brief as it is satisfying, then we watch new character Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) match wits with the pure evil of Senator Roarke (Powers Booth) at a game of cards, followed Dwight’s (Josh Brolin, taking the place of Clive Owen from the first film) origin story, a tale of manipulation and revenge featuring the titular (emphasis on the first syllable) ‘Dame to Kill For,’ Ava (Eva Green), and finally, we close the film with Nancy (Jessica Alba) in the second original story in the film, which sees her both drowning her sorrows and plotting revenge against Roarke for the injustice, and ultimate death, or the only man she ever loved: John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). It’s a whirlwind of booze, broads, and bullets, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from Sin City.

The entire cast is nothing short of stellar in their rolls. The actors who returned to their rolls (Rourke, Alba, Willis, Booth, Rosario Dawson, and more) stepped into them like comfortable, broken-in shoes. New actors (Gordon-Levitt, Juno Temple, Christopher Meloni, Ray Liotta, Julia Garner, Stacey Keach, and many more) all excel in their rolls. Finally, the actors replacing others in their rolls (Brolin for Owen, Jamie Chung for Devin Aoki, Dennis Haysbert for the late Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeremy Piven for Michael Madsen) were by and large worthy replacements, although if you didn’t know that Piven was playing the same character that shot Bruce Willis in the first film, you might assume he’s a new character as well.

Of particular note, Eva Green was spectacular. Not only is she gorgeous to look at (spending much of her screentime fully nude), but she plays the role of Ava so well it’s comparable to Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man in terms of perfect casting. Replacing a mountain (in both stature and talent) like Michael Clarke Duncan is an imposing challenge for anybody, but the Allstate Guy really blew it out of the water. Jamie Chung also impressed me in the role of deadly, little Miho, the silent ninja prostitute, to the point where you almost forget that she’s filling in (although those missing Aoki’s Miho will be glad to hear she’ll be playing Katana in season three of Arrow). Gordon-Levitt, surprisingly nobody, plays the suave, slick gambler to a T, and his role alone is worth the price of admission. Similarly, Rourke’s return as Marv is sure to delight, although appearing in all four parts is almost overkill. Finally, I was pleased to see Willis’ Hartigan appear as a ghostly witness to Alba’s downward spiral, and even if it was a wig, I was glad to see they nailed his hair.

The Robert Rodriguez does what Robert Rodriguez does best with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For , co-directing, shooting, editing, and scoring the film with zeal. Frank Miller’s script is spot on, full of macho men, hookers with guns, and minimal dames in distress. The adaptation of A Dame to Kill For is spot on, and while I haven’t read anything past That Yellow Bastard nearly as many times as the first four collected books (which served as the source material for 95% of the first movie and the title piece from this one), the opening sequence with Marv was absolutely delightful. The two new stories weren’t bad, with Gordon-Levitt’s serving to make us remember why we hate Senator Rourke and Alba’s finale finally delivers what fans of the comic and the movie have been waiting for. One complaint I do have, however, is no one line in the film struck me like many of the first’s did. Marv doesn’t once remark on the quality of an adversary’s jacket (although there are certainly jacket references) nor did any of Josh Brolin’s dialogue-via-gritted-teeth impact me like half of Hartigan’s lines from the first movie. In the grand scheme, this is a minor complaint but it certainly sat with me after walking out of the theater.

This film is a long time coming. Was it worth the wait? If you’re a fan, yes, absolutely. It’s exactly what you want from a Sin City movie.It adapts two more stories while expanding the Sin City universe. If you’re not a fan, you might be bored, as it takes time to tell a story, and there’s four crammed in here. On top of that, it’s admittedly a juvenile universe where a majority or its females are either waitresses or prostitutes (sheer badassery notwithstanding), its men are manly or even seemingly superhuman, and its cops and politicians are as corrupt as they come. But most of the people that are coming to see this film know that walking in.

If you’re looking for a trip into a gritty, stylized noir world full of action, gunfights, and brutality, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is for you. If you’re not, maybe you’ll enjoy When the Game Stands Tall (but if you’re like Matt, you probably won’t).

In closing, do I think my grandmother would enjoy this film? Yes, because she’s awesome and it had plenty of her favorite character. I personally am most excited for a supercut (hopefully one I can buy) of both films in one, chronological bundle (Nancy going from angsty drunk to bright-eyed stripper who has her heart in it still was jarring, even for me).

I wish I could close with some sort of awesome Sin City reference, but all I can come up with are “Helluva way to end a partnership” and “I took away his weapons. Both of them.” neither seem fitting.