Written by Husam Jayyusi

 

What To Expect

Old hig-on-contrast, desaturated wine. Old bottle. Sorry, what's new again?

Old wine. Old high-on-contrast, desaturated bottle. Sorry, what’s new again?

Let’s put one thing on record first, the initial entry into the Sin City saga is no great film. It features paper-thin characters that you couldn’t care less about, which is a good thing, as they all end up dead by the finale. They are all glamorously disguised imitations of each other. The narrative is beyond ridiculous, which is fine as it’s based in an ulterior version of what must be New York but looks like Detroit, and it’s put together by the maestro of style over substance.

But,

I absolutely love it. The reason is mainly because I don’t look at it as a modern film noir, but as a slice of stylized glam pop that it is. I loved its groundbreaking style, it’s high contrast feel, with bursts of primary colors. It finally released Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2) from his cocoon like hibernation period with the character of Marv, who can only be described as a caveman with a trench coat, and it has female characters that are even more ass kicking than the men.

So, more of the same please?

Uh, No.

What’s It About? 

As with the previous film, A Dame To Kill For is based on a few sporadic tales from the Frank Miller Sin City series, along with new ‘written for the film’ segments. Again, plotlines take place randomly in a very non-linear structure that gives it an odd sort of prequel-sequel combo punch.

In brief [otherwise we’ll be here for days] the film is split into 3 narrative segments. There is the story of a hotheaded young gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a revenge-fueled stripper (Jessica Alba), and Ava the titular femme fatale (Eva Green; 300: Rise of an Empire) who lures an old flame (Josh Brolin; Planet Terror) into a dangerous game. Rourke and Jessica Alba (Awake) return to their roles as Marv and Nancy, with Dennis Haysbert stepping in for the late Michael Clarke Duncan. 

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Seductress alert!

Seductress alert!

I wanted to like it, god knows I wanted to, but Robert Rodriguez makes it so difficult. It seems to me that now is the time to move forward from the low-budget independent vibe he’s been parading for years, with his 10-minute film school and DVD cooking segments. Robert, ask the studios for more money, they will give it to you. He isn’t a bad filmmaker; it’s just that he is spending his prime pretending to be a director trying to break through. It’s time for him to step into his own and deliver consistent results.

In reality, A Dame To Kill For offers nothing new to an audience, and feels quite redundant. We’re back in Basin City, this amazing world, with amazing characters and stunning monochrome visuals, but that’s the problem. There’s no advancement, no maturity, no gain. It isn’t as affective as it was the first time. I’m not impressed anymore. The only example I can give, is that it was like running into an ex girlfriend and realizing that as BB King said, the thrill has gone away.

Frank Miller is more of a consultant than a film director, but his dialogue drips cool and his characters deliver it well. I can’t knock one of the greatest graphic novelists much. His reputation precedes him. The script from his previous novels along with the new additions are entertaining, just not groundbreaking.

The pace of the film is clunky. We are presented with too many scenes of lounging around, repetitive discussions, and romantic interaction that is just unappealing. This kills any tension and dampens any electricity that the original provided.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Shotgun swag.

Shotgun swag.

There is some good lingering amongst the bloody mess. Some of the actors do the best they can with the material. Mickey Rourke as Marv munching up screen time and delightfully so. Josh Brolin is a significant upgrade over Clive Owen from the first film and the female characters have more to do rather than simply playing the alternative to a male vendetta. Eva Green portrays a pure femme fatale beautifully, oozing sensuality and vulnerability to rival many an on-screen female noir character (Sharon Stone, Jane Greer), supplying the film with the one positive that keeps it from being a train wreck.

Worth It?

If you are looking to reminisce in the moments that made you love the first film, there are a few scattered around, but this is a film that has been made with such little effort, which is a surprise considering how long it took to emerge from production hell. The truth is, ten years later is ten years too late. The overall distinct style of the film isn’t impressive anymore, and rather than trying to go all out and reinvent, it’s been lazily copied, and not successfully. 

Star Rating: 1.5 / 5