Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Warning: This review will also contain spoilers for the first Sin City, although if you’ve seen this movie and not the first one, you might have fucked up. Good job, sport.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Now, you want to know something interesting about the above poster for this film? It was actually banned by the MPAA because you can see Eva Green’s nipple. Which is pretty rude of the MPAA, to be honest, because Eva Green nude is supposed to be this movie’s main selling point. How are they supposed to advertise the film if they can’t even show off their main asset?
But I digress. As you may or may not know, the Sin City series of films are based on the Frank Miller series of graphic novels published by Dark Horse Comics. And by based on I mean they literally use the comics as storyboards and scripts. And Frank Miller co-directed with Robert Rodriguez. So they’re pretty much the exact same fucking thing, except the films are films and the comics are comics.
Now, both Sin City and it’s interquel, A Dame to Kill For, adapt multiple stories from the comics simultaniously. These stories, called “yarns”, take place around the same time period. Or not, depending on which story you’re reading. To be honest the internal timeline is pretty confusing.
Getting back on topic, to serve this review better, I will review each yarn separately, under it’s official title. Some, such as The Long Bad Night featuring Joseph Gordon Levitt, were spectacular. Others, such as the titular A Dame to Kill For…not so much. But let’s get on to the actual review.
Just Another Saturday Night (Featuring Marv)
Welcome to the opening of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The exemplar of why I hate the fictional metropolitan area of Basin City. It’s worse that real life, because in real life frat boys are lovable folks who go around crushing beer cans on their heads.
And in this universe, frat boys light homeless people on fire.
And then there’s Marv. Marv completed the trifecta of heroes in the original Sin City, being the Anti-Hero to John Hartigan’s Folk Hero and Dwight McCarthy’s Regular Dude. We’ll get to those two later.
I consider Marv to be a paradox. He’s pretty cool in that he’s virtually superhuman in strength and durability, and he also does good stuff a lot of the time, like when he killed Kevin in Sin City. But sometimes he’s just a giant asshole. This might be one of these times, I’m still undecided there. Should I be for or against his brutal murder of the frat boys?
On the for side, they lit a homeless dude on fire. On the against side, we have a criminal justice system for a reason. Back to the for side, it’s not like the criminal “justice” system actually does anything in Basin City.
And this is my main problem with Sin City. Anybody you have to root for dies, or gets their white morality stained grey. Marv is a sociopath and a monster, and while he still does do whatever qualifies as good in Basin City, he does it in a very, very bad way. And that just made this opening sequence unenjoyable for me.
Especially compared to the opening sequence in the first Sin City, in which the hitman comes back post-credits to tie off a loose end. Aside from Marv just being Marv here, it didn’t really tie into the rest of the film well, and felt kinda out of place. I would much rather they had just adapted another short story from Booze, Broads and Bullets instead of this one.
The Long Bad Night (Featuring Johnny)
This is by far my favorite yarn in the entire film. One of the two original yarns written by Frank Miller for the film, this features Johnny, Senator Roark’s bastard son.
And I like it because Johnny is honestly, a good guy. He’s got superpowers too, like Marv but different. He was born lucky. He’s got the Midas Touch. One buck and he’s raking in the winnings. And you can just feel how much of a curse that is for him. Where’s the fun? Where’s the challenge? Gambling is never truly a gamble for him because nothing is ever on the line.
So he comes up with a plan. To take on his absent father in a game of, er, “chance”. To actually gamble his own damn life. He’ll always win when he’s betting money, so maybe he can get some excitement betting his life instead. And what better way to gamble his life than to take on Senator Roark, unarmed, surrounded by his men?
To be fair, that is more of an alternative character interpretation. But even with what we see in the film, he’s still a pretty good guy. He’s not like the other characters. He can’t go punching or shooting his way through. He’s not a fighter; he’s a gambler. So he’s going to take on Roark his own way, in what might potentially be the most important way. He’s going to destroy his legacy. He’s going to make an example of him in front of all the powerful men of Basin City, and show Roark can be beaten.
Johnny is my favorite character in Basin City because he stood up against Roark, in the face of death, without the benefits that other men did. It’s like I said. He’s not a fighter; he’s a gambler. And he’s the greatest goddamn gambler I’ve ever seen.
Also you get to see Doc Brown as a crazy back-alley surgeon so that’s a bonus.
A Dame to Kill For (Featuring Dwight McCarthy)
Fuck this, fuck everything about this. This was painful to watch.
Ava Lord has superpowers, too. Unlike Marv and Manute who have super punching powers, Johnny who is a super-gambler, John Hartigan who is a motherfucking ghost and Kevin and Miho, two super-ninjas, Ava has a…different sort of ability.
Super Seduction Powers. Otherwise known as bull-fucking-shit.
Ava Lord’s ability to immediately woo men at will is just a lazy excuse Frank Miller came up with to justify having Dwight go back to her against all common sense, and having Mort, the last goddamn honest cop in Basin City, go insane, cheat on his wife, and murder his partner.
That’s actually one of the things I hate most about this. Mort was a good fucking guy. He was the only cop who tried to save John Hartigan from prison because he knew he was being set up. In the comics, he was the guy who picked him up from jail, not Bob. So to see what they turn his character into with this film is an utter tragedy.
Also you can only hear Josh Brolin say “Don’t let the monster out” so many fucking times before you start to lose it.
By the way, do you remember when Dwight said “Don’t let the monster out” because he said “Don’t let the monster out”.
Don’t let the monster out.
You get the idea.
Then there is Wallenquist.
He literally appears for one scene. Note that this is Wallenquist’s only appearance in either film. The above photo wasn’t even in the film you saw in theatres, it got cut. Which is fucking bullshit because he’s the real villain of the series.
The hitman you see at the beginning and end of the first Sin City? That’s the Colonel, his chief enforcer. Remember from the first film when Manute and his cronies tried to use Iron Jack’s head to gain control of Old Town? They were working for Wallenquist. Wallenquist is quite possibly the most important character of the entire franchise that you never actually fucking see.
So yeah, you should have extended the running length for this film and used one of the full length stories focusing on him and the Wallenquist Organization. Which includes an entire division dedicated solely to pornography, the actors in which are brainwashed. There is a shit ton of story material there.
Now, that might be covered in the next Sin City film, but seeing that it took nine years for this film to come out, don’t count your chickens, folks.
Final issue: I don’t think Frank Miller or Robert Rodriguez understand how plastic surgery is supposed to work.
Dwight before his plastic surgery looks like Josh Brolin. Dwight after plastic surgery looks like Clive Owen, that guy we all thought might be James Bond until Daniel Craig came and turned the franchise from James Bond into The James Bourne Identity. But that’s a matter for another review.
Seriously, they make a big deal of Manute being able to recognize him by his eyes alone, but he literally looks like the same fucking dude just with longer hair. It really took me out of the thing.
Mainly, this entire yarn was boring. It was long and boring and I know they could have done it better but decided not to.
Nancy’s Last Dance (Featuring Nancy Callahan)
I hate this but for a completely different reason than any hate I expressed for the previous yarn. Now, since this is only my second review, you’re probably unaware of one of my berserk buttons when it comes to fictional universes.
And that berserk button is continuity.
You see, in Nancy’s Last Dance, Nancy kills Roark. Except that doesn’t make any sense because Senator Roark is still alive to express his outrage at the murder of Cardinal Roark by Marv in The Hard Goodbye. And we see Nancy in The Hard Goodbye without any facial scars, even though she gave herself facial scars in this yarn which takes place before The Hard Goodbye.
So this entire segment is one giant continuity mess and for that reason alone I could hate this.
Nancy. Nancy is the entire problem with this segment. Nancy was stripping to pay her way through Law School, and this segment shows she’s given up on that. The entire point of her character was that she was supposed to be one of the people who ends up making Basin City a better place through legitimate, civilized means. And this yarn just tears it all fucking apart, and it’s a tragedy.
And she might be the only stripper in the world who doesn’t take their top off. Now, as a minor according to Canadian law, I don’t have much personal experience with what goes on in a strip club, but I do know that if there was a stripper who never took her top off, she certainly wouldn’t be making enough money to put herself through law school.
Wait, maybe that’s why she’s not a lawyer by now.
She also gave herself facial scars and tricked Marv into thinking Roark did it to her, which means she’s a complete and utter ass since she manipulated Marv into risking his own life for her own vendetta. She could have probably even asked Marv to help her, he helped Dwight!
Speaking of which, Marv doing a home invasion and murderfest of a mansion in Sacred Oaks in this yarn was just a repeat of Marv doing a home invasion and murderfest of a mansion in Sacred Oaks in the previous yarn A Dame to Kill For. It felt like a tired rehash and made me bored. BORED. IT MADE ME FUCKING BORED.
YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL FUCKING BORED IN A FUCKING FRANK MILLER MURDERFEST. You are supposed to be chomping down popcorn and laughing as blood splatters all over the place and you watch in glorious 3D. That’s what this entire website is about! It’s in the fucking name!
Also I have no idea what was going on with John Hartigan. First I thought he was a ghost when he was in Kadie’s Club, then I thought he was a hallucination of Nancy’s when she was talking to him in her shitty apartment, but then he appeared to Roark to distract him so Nancy could pop a cap in his ass.
So I guess Hartigan is a ghost? Is he the only ghost in Basin City? Do only good people get to be ghosts, and would that mean John Hartigan is the only good guy in Basin City? Because if he is, that’s pretty depressing and also just exemplifies the issue of there being nobody to root for in these films which I expressed above.
I will give this yarn credit though for the scene of Nancy in her bed hallucinating Senator Roark. Powers Boothe was sufficiently scary in that segment and nearly made me shit my pants. Seriously, I was concerned for a moment on the pants front.
In closing, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was an okay film. I would not buy it. I would steal it and watch it in my home theater, and if I enjoyed it personally, I would either buy the blu-ray or mail the appropriate amount of cash directly to Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, with no return address.
Or maybe not, that sounds like too much of a hassle.