What happens in Sin City should stay there

| Jay Benedict reporter |

“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” has a bad case of “The Matrix Syndrome.”
The original “The Matrix” movie was well-reviewed by critics and audiences came out in droves to see the Wachowski Brothers’ dystopian futuristic flick. It even won Oscars. The film was praised for its original and interesting plot and the groundbreaking technical and special effects, in spite of Keanu Reeves’ bland, emotionless delivery in the lead role. It’s the movie that gave Hollywood bullet time.
The team reassembled and churned out two sequels to “The Matrix,” but neither film approached the bar that the first had set. That’s partly because the concept and technology simply got old and partly because the writing was nothing special. Now, “The Matrix” is still quotable and recognized as an impressive piece of art and its sequels are an afterthought.
This is what is going to happen to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” The original overshadows this film for the same reasons described above.
Rodriguez’s “Sin City” brought Miller’s graphic novels to life in a way that large audiences had never seen before.
Its highly stylized use of black and white with splashes of color gave the whole movie a comic book feel and stayed incredibly faithful to the source material. It still stands out as a beautifully done film with dark plot lines and themes.
“A Dame to Kill For” does the same thing, except it’s not new anymore. The style is still stunning and looks even sharper than the original, and the cast is even more loaded this time around. The film features four interconnected stories and includes several characters from “Sin City.”
It’s really the story of a bar. Each of the individual arcs starts or has a portion of the story in a dive bar in a bad part of town. It’s here that Nancy (Jessica Alba) dances, Marv (Mickey Rourke) acts as the resident enforcer and tough guy, Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Roark (Powers Boothe) play their poker games, and Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Ava (Eva Green) reunite.
The patrons of this bar take turns on screen having their conflicts play out. Marv is very much the center of this film. He plays a part in every storyline, though some are more minor than others. Rourke isn’t asked to do much more than be physically imposing, and he carries that off well.
Eva Green is easily the highlight. She plays the central character in the film’s longest and most fleshed-out plot line. Green shows what she can do with very little. In a film full of caricatures, Green manages to play both victim and villain as a greedy sociopathic seductress. In a film where every female character is either a stripper or a prostitute, Green bares the most skin. It feels like nearly half of her screen time is spent in the nude.
Gordon-Levitt brings his suave, wise-cracking schtick to the gambler Johnny. He performs admirably, but his story feels tacked on. It has almost nothing to do with the events of the rest of the movie, save to villainize Roark even more. The plotline pops up between more relevant stories and seems like it’s only there to break up the action and extend the film.
Nancy’s story ties directly into the events of the first “Sin City.” It’s the only plotline that offers any closures, but it’s also the shortest and is tacked onto the end.
Noir tropes dominate “A Dame to Kill For.” Character voice-over drives most of the narrative. Roark uses “boy” at the end or beginning of almost every sentence. Most transitions between scenes involve the characters driving somewhere and explaining their motivations.
Honestly, these stories don’t need to be told. The film brings nothing new to the table. It feels like a sequel for the sake of making one. The tone is dark and gritty and the characters are almost all unsavory.
“A Dame to Kill For” is a comic book come to life. It’s cool to see it happen, but these characters aren’t worth investing in, nor do they have the capacity for that. Check it out if seedy, static characters are your thing, or you’re a fan of Eva Green. Otherwise, go see “Guardians of the Galaxy” again.

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