[Movie Review] “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” fails to impress

Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)
Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

Should you watch this for free? If you enjoyed the first “Sin City.”

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 102 minutes (1.75 hours)

“Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” is an anthology of five crime stories set in the fictional Sin City with several common threads connecting the tales. It is a sequel to 2005’s “Sin City,” and features a star studded cast of Mickey Rourke (Marv), Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan), Josh Brolin (Dwight McCarthy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny), Bruce Willis (John Hartigan), Eva Green (Ava Lord), Powers Boothe (Senator Roarke), Dennis Haysbert (Manute), Christopher Lloyd (Kroenig), Jeremy Piven (Bob), and a cameo by Lady Gaga (Bertha). It is also rated R21.

“Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” follows in the stylistic footsteps of its predecessor, covering a much wider scope of Sin City and showing us more of the different sections, inhabitants, and concerns of its central setting. The five stories benefit from a much tighter connection this time, and the third story is where “A Dame To Kill For” comes from (the other four being “Just Another Saturday Night,” “A Long Bad Night (Part I),” “A Long Bad Night (Part II),” and “Nancy’s Last Dance”). Of the five tales, this is definitely the grandest in terms of theme and violence – a fitting title for the sequel.

Jessica Alba as Nancy. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)
Jessica Alba as Nancy. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)

So what were the highlights of the film?

Excellent performances from Powers Boothe & Eva Green

The problem with larger-than-life characters is that a less experienced actor playing them can easily devolve into a hammy cliche. However, Powers Boothe & Eva Green, as Senator Roarke & Ava Lord respectively, take the two primary antagonists of the film and instil in them a sense of wicked fun and sadistic wonder. You have no doubt what they’re going to do the next – but it’s how they’re going to manipulate or strongarm their way there that keeps the tension high and the curiosity piqued.

Sprawling breadth with a sense of cohesion

Despite the five (well, four, since two of the stories are effectively the same plot) stories being vastly different in focus, the skilful use of common characters and locales help to bring across the idea that Sin City is a living, breathing, complex metropolis. Vice and villainy will continue regardless of the resolution of each plot, just like it would in a real city.

Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)
Josh Brolin as Dwight McCarthy. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)

Yet “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” was plagued with several problems which kept it from being a stellar sequel.

Effects were overdone

There’s stylisation, and then there’s indulgence. While the first “Sin City” managed to tread a fine line between the two, this instalment throws any sense of balance out of the window by cranking up the violence to ludicrous levels. It serves no purpose to the story, and it doesn’t add to the moody graphic novel atmosphere of the movie. By the third story, what was once an enthralling spectacle of violence becomes yet another repetitively infeasible death.

Stories were unbalanced in gravity and drama

The problem with putting the strongest story in the middle is that the last two tales become a tremendous letdown by comparison. The two stories that close the film pale in comparison to the epic grandeur of “A Dame To Kill For” and causes the film to sag pitifully to its conclusion. You could literally walk out of after the third portion, and it would be a much, much better film as a result.

The final story, especially, lacks any sort of emotional drama or resonance – Nancy’s downward spiral doesn’t make sense, and it all feels like a forced ploy to get to the action set piece at the end.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny. (Yahoo Movies Singapore)

In the end, “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” lacks the authenticity of the original. It feels more like a showcase of effects, styles, locations, characters, while lacking a genuine sense of story and theme. You don’t come away from it feeling impressed or pensive. Rather, it leaves you with an apathetic sense of emptiness as you wonder, “what did I just watch?”

“Sin City: A Dame To Kill For” opens in cinemas 28 August, 2014 (Thursday).

This review was also published on Yahoo Movies Singapore.

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