Monday, 5 January 2015

'Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For' Review

I love the original ‘Sin City’, it’s an amazing film. ‘Sin City’ packs a real punch both visually and in terms of its storytelling. Robert Rodriguez brought a sense of emotional reality to Frank Miller’s comic book world. Together they collaborated to create a brilliant film.

Now weirdly enough I also rather liked ‘The Spirit’, Frank Millers directional debut. It certainly deserves a fair amount of the negative buzz it gathered but it has a lot I’ll praise it for also. The visuals are genuinely some of the most graphically strong cinema has produced and the story is fun, if not a bit ridiculous.

Therefore I looked forward to ‘Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For’ with a certain level of excitement. Even when the negative reviews hit I ignored them. After all, ‘The Spirit’ was mauled upon release and it’s really not that bad. So, is ‘Sin City 2’ a film to die for? Or is it a film that should have been killed?

I usually try and write some kind of punchy brief synopsis here, to establish the story behind the thing I’m reviewing. ‘Sin City 2: A dame to Kill For’ has broken me, proved an exception to the rule. The plot of this film is so schizophrenic and incomprehensible I found it genuinely hard to follow. One minute we’re following one character in the past and in the next scene we’re intercutting to someone in the present with no real attempt to bridge the disconnected scenes.

Once you add hallucinations and dreams into the mix it makes it very difficult to grasp a sense of where you are in the narrative. Now the first film didn’t have this issue. Efforts were made to visually separate the stories and establish the sequence order of the individual events. It helped that although the characters briefly overlapped, they had their own isolated story to tell.

‘Sin City 2’ has decided to largely ditch this segmented storytelling style for a more traditional cinematic approach. This is particularly weird as the stories are just as disconnected as ever, yet now they have been edited into one long and confusing sequence. One that I should add, doesn’t have a ending.

Within this barrage of information there are some genuinely good parts. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s sequence ‘The Long Bad Night’ is very strong. The titular ‘A Dame to Kill For’ is over long but saved by the performances from Eva Green and Josh Brolin. The issues come, sadly enough from the recurring cast.

Mickey Rourke’s Marv seems bored, his performance lacking the sense of fun and intensity it brought to the first film. Jessica Alba has to deliver lengthy monologs about sadness; they come across like a drama student trying too hard. This isn’t really a knock against her as the lines she has been asked to deliver are terrible.

The script is noticeably worse throughout ‘Sin City 2’, it feels a lot less thought out. You also have a lot of opportunity to focus on it as the direction is very stilted. Lines are often said and not performed, as if the first line reading was used to form the final cut. Some actors survive in these circumstances, some don’t.

Rodriquez’s move towards Grindhouse and Exploitation cinema has bled into ‘Sin City 2’. The sequel is full of nudity and gore. The cartoon like violence of the first film has been replaced with more realistic, brutal depictions of injuries. What made the first ‘Sin City’ great was that it was, at its heart, a film noir. Film noir is about showing the darkness inside humanity. Exploitation is about feeding the dark desires in people. ‘Sin City’ had soul, had a genuine understanding of darkness. ‘Sin City 2’ does not and it suffers due to this.

To its credit, the film still looks really good, despite some occasionally dodgy effects work. The music’s good and a lot of the performances are great. Sadly, the nicest thing I can say about ‘Sin City 2’ is that it doesn’t retroactively ruin the first film. In much the same way that no badly made fan film ruins the original material. That’s what ‘Sin City 2’ is though, a fan film. A fan film that won’t inspire any fan films of its own.

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