August 26, 2014

Movie Review: Sin City - A Dame to Kill For

Nine years ago writer/director Robert Rodriguez teamed up with writer/artist Frank Miller to adapt Miller's Sin City tales to the big screen. The hihly stylized film went on to become my favorite film of 2005. It also resulted in Rodriguez quitting the DGA, as they would not allow him to share directorial credit with Miller. So, rather than leave Miller out, he left the guild and kept Miller at his side. It was a standup choice that paid off with a great film. Since then fans have been clamoring for a followup. Unfortunately, it took nine years to get it made. Frankly, I am unsure why it took so long, but I am glad it finally arrived, even if many seem lukewarm to its arrival. My recommendation is get out there and show it some love.

These days, the hyper stylized look does not seem quite as fresh as it did in 2005, when the concept of the digital back lot was still pretty young (the only examples I can think of that predate it are 2004's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Able Edwards). These days it seems somewhat common, coincidentally due to other Miller adaptations like 300, 300: Rise of an Empire, and the Miller directed The Spirit. I am not suggesting the market is diluted, but the uniqueness of the look is certainly diminished and the enjoyment of the mainstream audience may be limited by their enjoyment of or willingness to buy into the heavily stylized look. It certainly gives the look of a graphic novel sprung to life.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is comprised of a few tales woven together that add to the tapestry of the Sin City world that was started nine years ago. It gets a little complicated at times, although I do not find it hard to follow. With that said, I did not pay particularly close attention to all of the plot points, what I did was allow myself to become wrapped up in the style, the look, the sounds, the way everything falls into place is a pretty spectacular.

This is certainly a case where style trumps all else. Sure, there is content there and a number of interesting characters, but I do not feel they are anything more than the part they play. In some movies characters are more than what is on the screen, details of their lives and emotions can be extrapolated on by what we see, in the case of Sin City it is more of a what you see is what you get. This is a movie about the form, about the look, about the characters and the motions they go through, it is not about depth. That is all right.

This is hard boiled noir, where the term is taken literally, all of the elements that make up the noir are tossed into a pot and boiled, hard. What remains is the bare essence, the raw look, the grizzled characters, the tough guy dialogue, violence, and a general nastiness. It comes together in a way that draws me in and holds my attention. These are tough, hardened characters going about tough work.

There is something about this universe that I just love. Watching Marv (Mickey Rourke) let his fists do his talking, or Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) taking care of business with his luck streak, or Nancy (Jessica Alba) with her emotional journey, or any of the others, they all have stories to tell. Sure, these people only exist because of their stories, but so what, it works, they hold my attention and it is seriously stylish.

Rodriguez and Miller make a triumphant return to the world they introduced us to (cinematically speaking) and while it may not be perfect, it is still a pretty impressive feature. If there are faults to be made (aside from the wig/makeup job on Josh Brolin), it is that there are times that feel a bit rushed, as if they were running out of time and had to get to the conclusion (this leads me to believe there is more footage and there may be some extended cut in the works). Even with the shortcomings, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is high entertainment, made with a great look of black and white cinematography, highlighted with brilliant moments of color.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For takes the look of the original and amps it up even further. It makes it appear like the graphic novel has lept off the page and onto the screen where the rough and tumble tales of dark alleys, bad guys, and anti-heroes embark on their respective paths. I know I have not spoken much of the tales told here, just let it be said you will be sucked in and forced to confront some crazy darkness. This is the comic book art house and it is something to be savored, warts and all.

Highly Recommended.

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