“Death is just like life in Sin City. It always wins.”
Nine years ago, director Robert Rodriguez did what Robert Rodriguez does best. He took a super schlocky, super B grade, super exploitationy all story, and he turned into ground breaking, rule breaking cool that didn’t just ignore its lack of substance, it embraced it. That movie was Sin City, based on the comic book series of the same name by Frank Miller. Using the comics as story boards, Rodriguez even gave Miller a co-director credit.
Nine years is a long time between drinks. Long enough for the shine of that ground breaking, rule breaking cool to have well and truly worn off. Which is why all those same tricks seem kind of boring in Sin City: A Dame to a Kill For.
Intertwining Story 1, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Johnny, a card shark and gambling wiz who’s thrust into the city’s most notorious poker game. A game where the corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Booth) holds court and doesn’t take kindly to losing or being made to look a fool. A lesson Johnny learns at the expense of his fingers and his girlfriend’s head. But it turns out that he has a past with Roark, and won’t be deterred so easily. Also, Mickey Rourke pops up, reprising his role as Marv because… Well, I guess because Marv was kind of the breakout character in the original Sin City, so Rodriguez probably had to make sure he was in plenty of the sequel too, just to get funding.
Intertwining Story 2, Josh Brolin is Dwight, a private dick who takes photos of philandering husbands for suspicious wives. When he receives a call from his ex girlfriend Ava (Eva Green), we meet the titular murder inspiring dame. She manipulates him to a web of double crosses, deceit, violence and extortion. When Dwight decides he needs back up, he calls Marv. Because? See above.
Intertwining Story 3, Jessica Alba is back as Nancy, the stripper with a heart of gold. In the original, Bruce Willis’ Hartigan saved Nancy from the rapey son of Senator Rourke. Hartigan also managed to die in the process. Now Nancy is drinking too much as she plans her own murderess revenge against Rourke. Also, Marv is there.
I liked 2004’s Sin City. But everything I liked about that are the exact same things I was underwhelmed by in A Dame to Kill For. The blinding contrast of the black and white was amazing back then, but it was the little flourishes that made it special. A touch of colour here and there, the empty glasses of Elijah Wood’s silent psychopath. In 2014, the colour is brought out so often, it gets mundane and blends in. And when every character has those same, hollow glasses, it stops standing out.
I might not like all of his movies, but I have always liked that Robeet Rodriguez is out there, keeping film making on its toes. But he’s starting to run out of good will and really needs to deliver something fresh soon. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is not that.