A really different-looking film hit the silver screen nine years ago when “Sin City” opened nationwide. What made this crime drama based upon the Frank Miller’s black and white graphic novels unique is that directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez chose to film the whole thing on green screen. The result was indescribably fascinating, and people liked the film so well that a sequel was inevitable. Thus we now have “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” and it certainly matches, or even surpasses, the overall look of the original.
Now if you saw the first film, you may be a bit confused in this one because some of the characters who died in the original are back in this one, but there is a logical explanation for this. The film contains a number of different but related stories, and some of them occurred before the events in the first movie. Therefore, we see Marv (Mickey Rourke), Goldie (Jaime King), and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) again in this film. In the production notes Miller offered a reason for bringing these characters back.
“I tend to play around in the ‘Sin City’ books as I am in the movies now. I bounce from one point in time to another, so characters can seem to come back to life when actually all I’ve done is go back in time.”
The following is a chronological listing of the individual stories as they occur in the film: “Just Another Saturday Night,” “The Long Bad Night (Part I),” “A Dame to Kill For,” “The Long Bad Night (Part II), and “Nancy’s Last Dance.” Although all the stories could stand by themselves, they are related in that they take place in Sin City, and some of the characters cross paths.
As the film begins, we find a disoriented Marv (Rourke) trying to figure out why he’s in the middle of highway in the company of a wrecked police cruiser and a few dead bodies. He really can’t remember how he arrived at his current location, but he does recall being in Kadie’s Saloon, where the main attraction is erotic dancer Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). Both the bar and Nancy serve as unifying devices for the separate stories in the film. During this segment we also see the tough side of Marv, who has a run-in with some fraternity guys. Marv is an intimidating character because of his size and appearance, and Rourke had to endure a long time the makeup chair to have his face “put on.” In the production notes Miller offered an interesting analysis of Marv.
“Marv is a person who most people think is insane because of the way he behaves. What he really is is a man born in the wrong millennium. He could have been a Roman gladiator and people would have honored him, but instead he’s a misfit that hangs around in bars and breaks a lot of faces, but he’s a loyal man that seeks justice at every turn.”
As the film continues, we meet a number of interesting characters, and they are what make the film so fascinating. For example, Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is an arrogant gambler who makes a killing on slot machines at Kadie’s before moving on to a poker game with Senator Roark (Powers Booth), a powerful and ruthless politician who hates to lose.
Another plotline introduces Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) and Ava Lord (Eva Green), two former lovers whose rocky relationship is better than any soap opera you’ve ever seen. Ava is the “dame to kill for” from the film’s title, and she drives Dwight crazy. In the production notes Green provided some interesting insight into her character.
“Ava is an enchantress, a siren; she casts spells over men. She can read men’s minds, and she can become whatever they want her to be. With Dwight, it’s very interesting because there’s a true connection. He’s probably the only man she ever loved. Ava has so many facets. She can be a damsel in distress for Dwight; with Manute she’s a goddess, and with Mort she’s the sexy kitten. As an actor, it’s great because you can show so many colors.”
“A Dame to Kill For” is a consistently intriguing character study of myriad tortured souls living in a town aptly named Sin City. All of the actors in the movie are outstanding, and as you watch them live their torturous lives, you are caught between pitying them and loathing them. Actually, Rourke’s comment about Marv in the production notes is pretty much applicable to most of the characters in the film.
“He is a character that at times, the audience may have to struggle with: ‘Do we like this guy? Does he have a screw loose?’ Marv doesn’t really think of the big picture; he’s just in the moment. He doesn’t really think of the repercussions and the price he’ll have to pay for it.”
Be forewarned this film is not for everyone because it contains plenty of graphic violence, nudity, and sex, but those who liked the original should not be disappointed in the sequel. In addition to its multiple plotlines involving a plethora of diverse characters, this movie is a visual treat. By filming it on green screen, the directors succeed in making it look like a black and white graphic novel, and when they add splashes of color here and there, they create the aura of a surrealistic dream.
Add to this excellent sets and props and a haunting musical score, and you have a sequel that at least matches and perhaps even surpasses the original. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a treat for fans of film noir, and it earns the final score of sinfully creative seven. In a summer sadly devoid of quality films, this one at least provided a welcome chance of pace.