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More Risqué ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Doesn’t Dare to Trailblaze Again

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CHICAGO – Sex sells, sure, but the film-noir sequel “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” makes you feel dirty if you’re left thinking that’s enough.

Nine years since the visually groundbreaking, avant-garde hit “Sin City,” Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s biggest mistake with their next incarnation is replacing the first film’s bloodthirsty impact with too much nudity. The film is equally violent as it is naked, but we’ve almost become numb to such mutilation and it’s certainly part of this story.

Jessica Alba in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Jessica Alba as Nancy Callahan in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”.
Photo credit: Dimension Films

These talented filmmakers insult audiences by thinking Eva Green’s rabid libido and willingness to bare it all can outshine the film’s need to be otherwise compelling. She’ll satisfy the horny little boy or girl in you, but leave the mature man or woman in you really are intellectually unsatisfied.

In film and television, Green has clearly made a decision she can’t go back from. On screen, she’s a sexual deviant and obviously wants to be. Even more, she’s violent. From her unforgettable bedroom scene in 2014’s “300: Rise of an Empire” to random street sex in Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” viewers have come to expect nothing less from her. The stigma becomes boring and predictable.

Rather, someone like Scarlett Johansson – who is also clearly known as an arousing Hollywood provocateur – at least dares to act with her mind and without her body. She’s in a recent film like “Her” only using her voice, you never see her and she’s actually even a “good girl.” With films like “Grindhouse,” “Planet Terror” and “Machete Kills” under his belt, co-director Robert Rodriguez makes no secret about enjoying to cast beautiful women and having them do very, very bad things.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”.
Photo credit: Dimension Films

If this was a complement to the film, it could be enjoyable and fun. But when the film leans too heavily on it, it’s distracting and too obvious what’s being done. How uncomfortable “A Dame to Kill For” is when Eva Green is pretty much never clothed whereas every other woman is (albeit still in skimpy attire). Jessica Alba plays an erotic dancer, but she’s always clothed. Rosario Dawson and Jamie Chung are sexy and fun, but again, still somewhat covered up.

Now where “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” gets interesting is in its huge roster of “A”-list supporting actors and the memorable characters some of them portray. While the role of Manute went to Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”) in 2005, the surprising choice of Dennis Haysbert – yes, the Allstate guy! – seriously pays off this time around. This straight-faced Manute feels big, badass and unbeatable in his ability to be Ava’s (Eva Green) brute-force protector. He’s spot on.

Also, Powers Boothe’s return as the corrupt Senator Roark is unforgettable and the film wouldn’t be “Sin City” without him. Jeremy Piven’s role is rather puny, Bruce Willis is only used as a flashback, Lady Gaga passes with a cameo, Josh Brolin is satisfactory, Ray Liotta skimps by, Christopher Lloyd is quirky as usual and Christopher Meloni is an annoyingly stereotypical man who makes good guys everywhere look bad. Juno Temple is enjoyable as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s short-lived crush and Gordon-Levitt himself puts on yet another hit show as a gambling master.

Rosario Dawson in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Rosario Dawson as Gail in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”.
Photo credit: Dimension Films

And then there’s the return of Mickey Rourke. From masterfully portraying a washed-up wrestler in “The Wrestler” to a villain in “Iron Man 2,” this man has memorable voice characteristics that are second to none and the genuinely gritty, dirty, unpredictable and entertaining qualities the “Sin City” series can’t live without.

This sequel rests too much on just a few characters being great while many of them are just so-so. And the story is beyond flawed. If you count how many bullets are fired in the film and compare it to how many holes you can shoot through the various plot lines, the latter outnumbers the former.

The reason I haven’t even mentioned the repetitively groundbreaking cinematography is because it’s just that: a repeat. In 2005, this stylistic black-and-white, comic-book effect with some color selectively dotted in was breathtaking. But this is 2014, we’ve seen 9 years of films since then and doing the same thing all over again has less impact now. It’s nonetheless awe-inspiring yet again, but it’s equally frustrating that it’s not pushing new boundaries.

Eva Green and Josh Brolin in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Ava (Eva Green) beguiles Dwight (Josh Brolin) in “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”.
Photo credit: The Weinstein Company

It feels too much like a repeat. While the 2005 original was shot on a $40 million budget and earned a total box-office keep of $158 million, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” quite clearly went down like this: “We need to fill a 2014 movie slot in August,” Harvey or Bob Weinstein probably said. “Let’s go back to our well. Oh yeah, ‘Sin City’ was cool. Let’s do it again – don’t change a thing, but flash more skin – make some more money, celebrate and smoke a fat cigar.”

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” which opened on Aug. 22, 2014 and has a running time of 102 minutes, stars Eva Green, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haybert, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven, Julie Garner, Lady Gaga and Christopher Lloyd. The film is written and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels. The film is rated “R” for strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity and brief drug use.

HollywoodChicago.com publisher Adam Fendelman

By ADAM FENDELMAN
Publisher
HollywoodChicago.com
adam@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Adam Fendelman, HollywoodChicago.com LLC

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