Nearly a decade ago Sin City came out of nowhere to find itself as a low budget surprise. For an R-rated film based off a decidedly violent comic book/graphic novel series, the original managed to find an interesting niche in the days that preceded the Marvel Studios’ near stranglehold on the genre. Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Frank Miller combined to craft an interesting and decidedly adult take on the comic book crime film genre. Shot against a green screen, that film (and it’s sequel) mimicked the comic book in terms of style. It, and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, both feel like live actors have dropped into a comic book frame and allowed to explore that world.
Unfortunately A Dame To Kill For is a substantively worse film than it’s predecessor because it relies on a handful of actors to carry a film who can’t. The film follows four different tales, intermixed with one another and sharing two things in common. Violence and a location … Basin City.
In “A Dame To Kill For” we follow Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin, Clive Owen in Sin City) as he tries to rescue the woman of his dreams (Eva Green) from her abusive husband (Marton Csokas). “Just Another Saturday Night” follows Marv (Mickey Rourke) as as tries to remember a violence filled Saturday night. “The Long Bad Night” focuses on a gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) trying to destroy Basin City’s resident bad guy Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe). “Nancy’s Last Dance” reunites us with Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) as she struggles with the aftermath of Hartigan’s death in “That Yellow Bastard” from Sin City.
With two new stories to add on to the “Sin City” canon, Frank Miller and Rodriguez co-direct the film once again (Tarantino got directing credit but only did one scene) but there’s something missing from this go around. The film’s two canon stories, “Dame” and “Saturday,” are carried by actors with dramatic heft. Rourke, who began his career resuscitation in part through Sin City, is never dull as the massive sociopath who thinks killing a couple of people on Saturday night can be fun in the right circumstance. Marv’s a roaring good time and Rourke taking up the mantle of Marv again feels like he didn’t miss a step.
Roarke nearly singlehandedly elevates the film to a much higher level than it deserves and it’s easy to see why Miller and Rodriguez brought him back for another go round.
Brolin is interesting as Dwight, taking up a younger version of Owen, and is interesting in a role that’s right up his alley as well. Dwight is a very pulpy part and takes a certain type of actor to play. Brolin has the face, and voice, of a movie star from that era of crime film-making and works very well as a younger version of Dwight. He has Owen’s gait, among other things, down and it feels like Brolin did considerable work making sure there was a fidelity to the character. Throw in Eva Green as the femme fatale and that part of the film works as well. And if this had just been an interesting Marv story mixed in with the best of the “Sin City” stories and this would be a great sequel. There’s certainly enough length in “Dame” to give it a near 90 minute run time with “Saturday” mixed in to break up the story ala the first film.
The problem is that it requires Nancy, an important character but without a ton of heft, to carry a huge portion of this film when nothing interesting is given to her. This is about her quest for vengeance coupled with her ability to be a good person and not kill; Miller doesn’t give Nancy anything but typical, cliched character development that doesn’t work in any aspect because Alba isn’t a good enough actor to make it work. Nancy is supposed to be someone who’s been markedly damaged from the loss of the great love of her life; what we get is Jessica Alba doing her best Lindsay Lohan as a drunken Liz Taylor impression. Alba’s charm in the first film is that she was the light at the end of the tunnel for Hartigan, a damsel in distress with something more to her. In this film she’s given more to work with but she doesn’t have the range to bring out the raw pain Nancy feels.
“Bad Night” is given far too much time for how fairly pedestrian of a story it is. It feels like it should be a small, tacked on story to a much longer tale (like “Dame”) but is given a significantly longer portion of time than it warrants. Gordon-Levitt is game for the part, as he feels like someone who should be in the franchise, but he deserves a better character and a better story to tell.
Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is a sequel that hits on a number of levels … but misses so profoundly often that it leaves the original looking significantly better by comparison.
Directors: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez Writer: Frank Miller based on an original concept as well as his comic book series “Sin City” Notable Cast: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.