Friday, August 29, 2014

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Powers Booth, Rosario Dawson, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Jaime King, Lady Gaga

Sin City (2005) is to me, one of Robert Rodriguez finest days behind the camera, it was sheer cinematic perfection, the mood, the images, the words, everything flowed with amazing finesse and clarity. So of course when I heard that Rodriguez and Miller were teaming up again for a sequel, I was more than excited. True, Robert Rodriguez can be a hit or miss type of director, but you have to admit, when he’s running on all cylinders, the guy can make some damn entertaining movies. El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995) From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Planet Terror (2007) and Sin City (2005) are all high watermarks in his career. And let’s not forget his more “for the hell of it” films, like Machete (2010) and Machete Kills (2013), two great examples of the fun b-movies that Rodriguez is so good at making. Here’s a guy who understands Pulp Fiction, not the Tarantino movie, but the concept. He knows how entertaining over the top violence can be. To top things off, he’s got a kinetic style of storytelling, with a high emphasis on never letting the audience get bored. He wants to give you that shock, that cheap thrill, he wants you to chuckle and stare in awe at the screen. And on this aspect, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For delivers the goods.

This time around we go back to the seedy underbelly of Basin City via four short stories all written by comic book mastermind Frank Miller. The stories are: A Dame to Kill For, Just Another Saturday Night, The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance, which by the way was a story written specifically for the film. On this sequel we get to see many of the characters presented to us in the first film, like Marv, Nancy Callahan, Dwight, Gail, Hartigan and the evil Senator Roark. We are also presented to a whole bag of new ones like the wonderfully conniving Eva, played by Eva Green. She’s the ultimate seductress, using her sensual powers to get what she wants, seducing her way to anything. Welcome to Sin City, a place where nobody is squeaky clean. 

Going back to Sin City feels like I never left, the characters, the images, everything holds a certain familiarity to it. The film still has that distinctive black and white look and the characters talk in that special unmistakable Frank Miller talk. It’s cool to see the same characters again, the only thing you have to be ready for is that certain characters are now played by different actors, for example, the character of Dwight, who was played by Clive Owen in the first film, is now being played by Josh Brolin.  The character of  ‘Manute’, who in the first film was played by Michael Clarke Duncan is now played by Dennis Haysbert. Devon Aoki, who played deadly little Miho in the first film, has been replaced by Jamie Chung, and so forth. They are still the same characters, it’s just different actors playing then. Good news is that since they are all Frank Miller comic book characters, they still look and sound the same, you might not even notice the changes so much.

So this film is interesting because its half prequel, half sequel. Some of the stories take place before the first film, some after the first film. This is the reason why we see some characters who died in the first film back again, the most notable example would be Marv, who dies electrocuted in the ending of the first film. Marv is featured prominently in this film, which is a good move in my book since he was everyone’s favorite character from the first film. He looks just a bit different, but he’s still good old pill poppin’, head chopping Marv. The last story in the film, called Nancy’s Last Stand is a good old revenge tale with Nancy looking to avenge the death of Hartigan, the detective that saved her from being raped, and “the only man she ever loved”. So yeah, you’ll feel like your revisiting your favorite, most fucked up friends. This is the nature of Sin City, it’s not a pretty place; these aren't wholesome characters. The stories that Frank Miller cooks up for these Sin City graphic novels are about greedy, selfish characters, hatred and revenge pour out of their every pore.

Frank Miller gets lots of heat because his stories have been deemed ‘misogynistic’ by some…in the parlance of our times, misogynistic means that his stories display a certain amount of hatred towards women? Um, I’ve read most of the Sin City graphic novels and I don’t really see that at all. Actually, I honestly think that’s just a bunch of horse shit. Let me see, if I remember correctly, Hartigan saves a little girl from being raped…how is that misogynistic? That very same girl grows up, and Hartigan once again protects her from ‘that Yellow Bastard’ who wants to rape her and kill her? This very same girl that Hartigan saves, later becomes a strong female character by going out to avenge the death of the man who saved her. Not misogynistic. Some of his stories actually empower the female, by making them strong protagonists, like in Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, where Nancy becomes a kick ass revenge hungry female lead.  Sure these are stories about prostitutes, so what, there are prostitutes in the real world so how is that displaying hatred towards women? Prostitutes are a real thing in the real world, especially in the world of Sin City. In the first film, Marv falls head over heels for “Goldie”, a woman he worships with every word that comes out of his mouth. Another character called Dwight protects a waitress named Shellie from a violent, psychotic ex-lover. In any case, if violence is inflicted upon women, it comes from villains, not from the heroes who always protect the women, or love them with tremendous amounts of love and admiration. And it’s not like women are always depicted as being helpless victims, just ask the girls of old town, who can more than take care of themselves. If you ask me, Miller actually displays respect and admiration towards women, not hatred. Miller actually addresses some very real issues about women, issues that need to be addressed and talked about. So get outta here with your self righteous sanctimonious bull crap. These are stories about a town called Sin City, if you can’t take the heat, get out of hell’s kitchen. 

Truth be told, being accused of being misogynistic is the smallest of Miller’s problems; what Miller really received a lot of heat for was for a story he drew and wrote called ‘Holy Terror’; a story that at one point was going to be one of the most controversial Batman stories ever told. At one point it was going to be called ‘Holy Terror, Batman!’ But through the course of creating this tale, Miller decided this was no longer a Batman story, so he changed the main character from Batman into a new character of his own creation called ‘The Fixer’ and printed the graphic novel through Legendary instead of DC.  But originally, Holy Terror was going to be all about Batman kicking Al Qaedas ass and killing a whole bunch of terrorists. The thing with Holy Terror is that Miller lived in New York during 9/11, and it affected him in a big way, Holy Terror was made as a direct response to that. Miller has gone down as saying “I can tell you squat about Islam, I don’t know anything about it. But I know a goddamn lot about Al Qaeda and I want them all to burn in hell”. So yeah, his public hatred towards Al Qaeda garnered hatred from many. Miller knew this was going to happen. He labels the book as “Propaganda” that is “bound to offend just about everybody” But then again, if we look back in time, Captain America and Batman both kicked Hitler’s ass in their own time, so to Miller, having Batman kick Al Qaeda’s ass was just a way to pay homage to those classic politically charged comics and a way to comment on the 9/11 attacks. Does it show hatred towards Muslims? Or just towards a small terrorist group? Is it racist? I don’t know because I have yet to read it, but you can’t expect a review of it here soon. Whatever the case maybe, Miller doesn't back down from his work, he makes no apologies for it, and maybe this is why as a form of retaliation, Sin City 2 has sadly tanked at the box office. I doubt that many people have read Holy Terror, but god knows there’s a couple of sites, and a couple of blogs and articles out there spewing nothing but hatred for it. It could be that this all backfired on Miller and now Sin City 2 is suffering at the box office for it.  

This is all too bad, because to me Sin City 2 is fun times, as fun and mean spirited as the first film was. Many have labeled it as “more of the same” and I have to say that I agree. To me this sequel being more of the same doesn’t bother me one bit because I love the film noir world of Sin City, if it’s more of what I loved from the first film then so be it, I welcome it. I got no problems with these stories being about prostitutes and psychotic characters, this is Sin City, keyword ‘Sin’. If I had to say something negative about the film is that the stories from the first film where slightly more shocking and darker…by comparison these stories feel somewhat less important. It’s not that they don’t chop off enough heads or that there isn’t enough white blood, there’s tons of violence and nudity to garner the film it’s ‘R’ rating, but by comparison, the stories from the first film felt like they had more of a punch to them. But whatever, Sin City light is still Sin City and the film still has enough grittiness, nudity and comic book violence to please fans of the ‘R’ rating. I’m saddened that Sin City 2 has tanked the way it has, there’s no real reason for it to be flopping as hard as it has, it’s an entertaining film. Is it that audiences nowadays have become complete softies that can’t take blood and violence in their entertainment? Has society grown only to accept PG-13 films? Whatever, it’s their loss. I hope they enjoy their umpteenth Step Up film.

Rating: 4 out of 5  


jimmie t. murakami said...

Both "Sin City" movies are superb but ultimately its a shame this one will be remembered as nothing more than a footnote to the original because i actually think its a marginally better movie.

steve prefontaine said...

It is odd that "Sin City 2" has failed at the box office because its a much better film than "Guardians of the Galaxy" (just to choose one random current example) which i thought was ludicrously over-rated.

robotGEEK said...

Rodriguez has always been where you and I differ. I'm with you in that I feel his best work is early in his career, with Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Planet Terror being his best output. But as much as I wanted to love Machete and Machete Kills, they just fell flat for me. I know exactly what kind of grindhouse film he was trying to make, but I don't really think he succeeded, even though I love that shit. Sin City is the same for me. I kind of enjoyed the original for it's daring approach with all the green screen stuff, but at the same time, I wish he actually just filmed the darn thing instead and just shot it in black and white, instead of doing it the way he did. I collected the Miller's comics way before it became popular to do so, and as an adaptation, it was a fairly accurate one. But I think it would have turned out so much better and more solid without all the green screen. I don't think a lot of it works very well, just because it's "too" fake. But I know a lot of people won't agree. I have no desire to see this sequel, unless it's for $1 at the discount cinema. I still have hope for Rodriguez, I think he still has it in him to deliver a good film again some day, I just haven't seen it yet.

Great review!!

Franco Macabro said...

Jimmie: Im looking forward to seeing Sin City 2 one more time, to really take it in.

Steve: Can't say I agree there, Guardians was super fun and good in so many ways. Sin City 2 has its flaws.

robotGEEK: Yeah, I know Rodriguez's Machete movies aren't what anyone would consider "good movies" but I like the "what the hell" attitude they have about em, it's like let's just get as crazy as we can here! I like that about em, it's low brow entertainment of the highest caliber, in my opinion anyways. But like you, I am continually waiting for Rodriguez to pump out another masterpiece. Looking forward to it!

To me, the whole CGI thing works perfectly for these Sin City movies, it kind of joins real life with comic book aesthetic in a really perfect way. But I hear what your saying, there is a fakeness to it, but I see it as comic panels coming to life. It works for me. Don't underestimate this sequel robotGEEK! It's fun times!


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