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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Movie Review

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

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It seems appropriate that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For would be co-directed by a comic book artist, because the whole production has that look on every frame. Part of its success is how the film looks like a graphic novel brought to life through the wild imaginations of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. There is almost a Ralph Bakshi feel to the movie, with its dark underbelly setting, storytelling format that throws the three-act structure out of the window and unapologetic grimy depictions of its characters. While problems are certainly there, there is enough to appeal to those who like this art style.

What immediately jumps out about the movie’s picture is the use of colour. In this black-and-white environment, there are the occasional reds that are used sparingly and only when necessary. Especially eye-catching is when certain characters, most notably Julia Garner’s Marcie, are the only people in the room with colour. It’s striking, but in a way that is not distracting and adds to the overall palette of the movie. The actors are perfectly integrated into the setting and it doesn’t appear to be people in front of a green screen. Even simple things like snow look like they belong on the comic book pages and it becomes easier to become swept up in this world. Each scene feels like flipping through a graphic novel and marveling at the illustration work. Miller and Rodriguez have a clear vision and impressive eye for detail, which plays a key role in part of the enjoyment. Like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Dick Tracy, this is a film with an obvious respect for the medium in which its story and characters originated.

The three main stories featured in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For succeed to varying degrees. The most interesting involves Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a poker player with a hot streak. This really gets into the dirty underbelly of Sin City and, like the rest of the tales presented here, does not flinch. He exudes a certain confidence as Johnny and Gordon-Levitt is surprisingly fitting in this universe, as he takes on the corrupt man in charge. There’s an intensity to the card games and he shares a particularly stand-out scene with Christopher Lloyd, where the actor gets the chance to get nasty to an almost icky degree far away from his beloved Doc Brown character. The storyline with the most screen time is awarded to private investigator Dwight, as he gets entangled in a murder plot. Josh Brolin and Eva Green’s scenes together sizzle off the screen with their back-and-forth providing some entertaining interplay. This tale also gets into the violent and grimy nature of Sin City the most and while disturbing at times, the blood and guts fit in with the graphic novel appearance, especially the use of reds.

The least successful segment is Jessica Alba’s vengeful stripper. It drags on a little long and Alba’s acting skills just aren’t high enough to convey the emotional turmoil of this character. The script also doesn’t go deep enough into her personal demons and what drives her. Most of Alba’s screen time is mainly reduced to strip dances, which results in a lack of character development and getting to know her. That’s part of the other major problem with this and other segments, as all of the women in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For come across as misogynistic male fantasies rather than actual characters. While the male characters in the film are corrupted or criminal, there’s still a layer of actual dimension underneath them. All of the women here are depicted as strippers, gold diggers, prostitutes and other degrading portrayals. When Rosario Dawson first walks on-screen, dressed completely in S&M garb, A Dame to Kill For ventures disturbingly close to fetish film territory. Even Ralph Bakshi’s Spicy City, which Sin City shares a lot of similarities with, found time to create actual female protagonists and not simply walking stripper-grams.

Regardless of the implied misogyny of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For , Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez have nonetheless managed to craft a somewhat uneven, yet visually striking comic book movie. The whole experience is like opening a graphic novel and being brought inside its pages and it’s easy to see Miller’s fingerprints all over this film, for better and for worse. Like any anthology film, not every story hits the mark, but there’s enough creativity on display in even the lesser segment. Rodriguez is one of those directors who knows how to utilise a green screen to its fullest potential and that’s ultimately what this movie is: a visual showcase, because character development and a well-structured story is mostly on the side, not that it’s always a bad thing.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison