dirs: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
I’m not always glad when I hear something is going to have a sequel. I was kind of glad this time, because Robert Rodriguez returning to the well for Sin City sounded like a good idea. He got the idea right the first time, why wouldn’t it work again?
There were more stories with many of these characters to tell from the Sin City comics, and, as they were already a distillation, a potent cordial of noir clichés and tropes, surely there would have been rich rewards with another hyper-violent and lurid adaptation?
This is an instance where the first few minutes of a flick dashed whatever hopes I may have had that something good would happen, only to be gradually won back over the course of the movie, and then convinced it wasn’t worth it by movie’s end.
It’s never a good idea to have high hopes when it comes to something from Robert Rodriguez. It’s important (for me) to remember that he is a cheesy hack and always has been, from his first movies to his latest. Sometimes his cheesy hackiness serves the material perfectly. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve enjoyed several of his flicks. I have also hated several of his flicks, because they’re cheap, nasty, and sometimes amateurish out of hastiness/laziness rather than anything else.
And yet I still feel compelled to admire him because of his personal nuts-and-bolts approach to making his own flicks. Performances are always secondary. Effects are often laughable. Thoughtful themes or any depth are almost entirely absent.
And yet… there are still occasionally things to like about his flicks.
If he is perhaps the ‘perfect’ match for the material, perhaps the fault is in the material. Like its predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is an interlinked anthology of sorts, though, considering many of the characters here died in the first flick, they’re not linked by chronology. Even knowing that I still found myself perplexed at many moments as to how much time was meant to have passed, or how one story corresponded with another considering the scenes that seemed to link them.
It was a waste of effort, I do admit. Just take them as they are. Parts are stronger than others, you could guess that without even watching it, and it doesn’t end strong, but the gooey, bloody middle does okay.
The first section is the worst, even though it concerns the character who came across strongest in the first flick, being the enormous palooka/Frankenstein-like Marv (Mickey Rourke). He has memory issues, waking up at the scene of what looks like a massacre, unsure as to how he got there or who did what to whom and why.
But then he remembers, and it all looks a bit silly. Marv pops up in all of the various stories, however separate they may be, and his role in those ones, as a violent fairy godmother, makes even less sense than what happens in the first sequence.
Marv spies some rich college jerks tormenting a poor homeless guy. Marv may be a violent psychopath, but he doesn’t tolerate the tormenting of the hopeless, which is mighty nice of him. This leads to a strange chase through the outer parts of Basin City, people jumping through windscreens and comically killed cops, and other even crazier goings-on.
But it also results in perhaps the dumbest, fakest-looking scenes I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. Ever. Like, I mean, ever. As in, I’ve watched thousands of movies over the last thirty years, and these scenes are horrible in ways I’ve never seen or imagined before.
When Marv and his quarry end up in a section of Basin City called The Projects, all the rules of physics and storytelling get momentarily suspended. Because Marv comes from the Projects, he is welcome, and can make things magically happen there with sign language.
Sign language? When he wants two jerks killed, he makes hand signals resulting in unseen assailants shooting these fratboys with giant glowing arrows.
Huh? I accept that it looked pretty stupid, and it has a kind of hasty / lazy Rodriguez-like logic to it (there’s no logic, it’s just the easiest thing Rodriguez can think of) but what happens next transcends even that level of worthlessness.
Marv wants to kill one of the luckless chaps in a hands-on way, so he signals again to the Projects themselves that he’d like them to throw him a knife.
He’s making gestures at buildings hundreds of feet away. They even have a hand signal for ‘throw me a knife, would ya?” And a knife magically appears in his hands?
It looks worse than it sounds to describe. I was pretty much prepared to walk away from the flick and never think of it ever again, but I’m glad I kept going with it.
Somewhat. The next bit is a bit more classically noirish, more like the earlier flick. Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a gambler who can’t lose, until he does. He loses by winning, winning big against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the vile scumbag who rules the city like a personal, corrupt fiefdom. Roark doesn’t tolerate being beaten at anything, being a prideful man, but Johnny seems to know this. He also seems pretty keen to follow a path of almost messianic torment and agony just to prove a point.
He does have a point, though it’s not a particularly uplifting one. Johnny’s tale of luck and woe stops halfway through, so we can get to the real guts of the story.
Dwight (Josh Brolin, taking the place of Clive Owen from the first flick), has a problem. He probably has a lot of problems, but his main one is that he came to the attention of the prototypical femme fatale Ava (Eva Green). Though the flick doesn’t make this explicit, as in, this isn’t meant to be a fantasy / supernatural story, Ava almost seems like she is something slightly more than just a very evil, very attractive, very naked woman who uses men to get whatever the hell she wants.
And so she should.
Her eyes glow green when she spins her lies, and the listeners are entranced, even as they know she speaks sweet lies. The reason is, they’re not listening with their ears, only with their dicks. And dicks don’t hear that well.
When she hits up Dwight with her sob story, and Dwight violently rejects her advances, even as he knows he’s going to give in, Marv’s on hand to tell us that he’s aware of the title of the movie, when he tells Dwight “that there is a dame to kill for.”
Groan. All you can do is groan deeply sometimes.
Of course Dwight goes back on his promises to himself, and can’t resist Ava in all her glory. Sure, I’ve known women like that. Hell, I've loved women like that. And yeah, so I had to take the fall and do years of hard time, but I’m sure she’ll come back one day, won’t she? She wouldn’t have lied to me, even if she testified against me on the stand, and said it was all my idea, but that was just to throw the cops off the scent, see?
I mean, have you had a look at Eva Green? If you haven’t, Robert Rodriguez makes sure you know she’s all woman by showing her naked more often than clothed. Even when she’s clothed, she’s not going to be for very long, you just know it, can feel it in the air.
It stretches into a convoluted but ultimately crazy story that’s as sloppy as anything else in the movie, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and with a time scale that doesn’t make any sense in this reality or even in a comic book reality. It doesn’t matter though, because it tells pretty much a complete story, is horrifically violent, and kept me entertained beyond its gory silliness. It’s the strongest of the 4 or so stories, and it’s probably the one closest to the spirit of the material these flicks are trying to distil.
We get the second part of Lucky Johnny’s story, which ends as bleakly as one could imagine, and then we have to endure another weak instalment when Nancy (Jessica Alba) comes to the fore to exact revenge for wrongs perpetrated by Senator Roark in the first Sin City movie.
This section, this plot, this set of actors (especially Alba, who is particularly terrible) convinced me that the world doesn’t need any more of these flicks. Neither Frank Miller, nor Rodriguez, nor any of the other people involved in these flicks has anything remotely interesting to say or interesting to do with the material. By the time this instalment came around, whatever happened in it seemed like a pointless retread of material from the other stories.
There are only so many times you can watch a group of people, including Marv, especially Marv, wandering into someone’s mansion / compound and killing a bunch of people before what little interest existed wanes. By this time it’s surreally pointless.
It heightened the already nagging feeling that we were watching something very artificial and very hollow, and I sure as shit did not care any longer. This, of all the sections, seemed to emphasise that what weaknesses existed probably came from the source material, that maybe Frank Miller, who hasn’t written anything decent in decades, might have finally disappeared up his own racist, misogynist clacker.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is the best example of why there didn’t really need to be another Sin City movie, and it definitely indicates that there shouldn’t be any further ones. I don’t think there’s anything left for them to say, and unless there’s some way they can bring Eva Green’s evil goddess character back, I wouldn’t care one jot.
6 times the whole film should just have been naked Eva Green telling enthralled men to do stuff for her, maybe household chores and such, for two hours and it would have been a massive improvement out of 10
“Do me one last favour, lover? Stay still long enough for me to blow your brains out.” – that sentence would be a whole lot nicer if it ended two word’s earlier – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For