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Mattywood
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) be bad
Photo: Miramax Films

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Rated R
Shamed 22 August 2014

This second trip to Sin City is like a slow ride down the seedy back roads to Hell. You know the kind. We all know the kind. We've all been on those roads. They're the kind of pothole-ridden trails lined with dive bars featuring broken coolers, busted taps - and the worst of the worst are dreary smoke-free zones.

The eyes enjoy the wild side, the lovely ladies showing their wares, men behaving badly. But the mind wanders after only a few minutes. It wanders around those rat-infested streets, looking for someone or something to give a damn about. Finding nothing, the mind starts to go blank. The mind starts to perform an internal inspection of the navel. It begins a monotone conversation with itself...

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Hmmm... You know what? I'm starting to ramble. Maybe I should stop my internal monotone monologue and get on with the show, or at least the review.

Empty Vessels

A Dame to Kill For, much like its predecessor, is a triumph of style over substance, but much less fun this time around. There's a nice technical finesse to the action. But come on. There's no acting here. It doesn't matter if it's Bruce Willis (Looper), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Josh Brolin (Men In Black 3) or any other member of the large ensemble — everybody puts on a grim face and the bulk of the dialogue (80%, maybe?) seems to be conveyed via those rambling monotone voiceovers, all spoken in the exact same somber tone of voice regardless of the character or the actor. A clever turn of a phrase or play on words are peppered here and there, but this love letter to all things noir, co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, should've been left unsent.

And to think the world waited more than nine years for this sequel to make its way out of development hell.

As with the first Sin City, this one features three semi-interconnected stories. None of them are particularly interesting, but the one with Eva Green (300: Rise of an Empire), who plays the titular dame, fares the best. She's a black widow with green eyes. The broad's hunger for men matches her strong appetite for going full frontal (in glorious black and white).

Another story centers on Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises), a lucky gambler with magic fingers. But it's kinda lame.

The third story is a revenge tale featuring Jessica Alba (Machete) returning as Nancy, everybody's favorite hottie at Kadie's.

She's still hot. Her story's not.

A Dozen Dime Novels

The guilty pleasure elements are there, but they're smushed under the weight of Miller's tone orgy. Who knew sin could be so dull? So dull, in fact, the dump should change its name to Grim City.

Wanna hear something kinda ironic? This review was banged out on a Hanx Writer 707, the brain-child of none other than actor and creative writer Tom Hanks. It's an app that turns an iPad into an old-school manual typewriter. And it's perfectly suited to channel the feelings and tone of the dusty dime novels of yore, the kind that star lonely detectives in fedora and trench coat, a second-hand cigarette permanently dangling, precariously, between pursed lips. Like the Sin City movies, it seeks to marry old school charm with the latest and greatest technology.

As for this installment of Sin City, it spiffs up film noir with computer animation and the latest in film trickery, but it fails to convey the fun, the fear and the heat. Blaring horns fill the film's score and visuals are plucked right out of Miller's graphic novels, but it all adds up to nothing more than a fetishist's collection of exercises in misogyny and atmospherics.

After a while, watching these grown men (Rodriguez and Miller) satisfy their self-indulgences and explore their fascination with a particular style grows more and more stale. It turns into a sense of not only base mimicry, but the devolution into self-mimicry.

What the hell does that mean?

Dunno. Maybe it's the imported vodka talking. It's a stale bottle, after all. It's been standing open for far too long; there's even a gnat lingering on the bottle lip, no doubt deriving ample comfort from the intoxication.

Maybe it's a tragic side effect, brain damage from 100+ minutes of decapitations, mumbling men with nothing interesting to say and too much B&W S&M without any rewarding sense of arousal or euphoria, just the butt-numbing pain of searing boredom.

Argh. There I go monologuing again.

Anyway, what about the Hanx Writer? It's a triumph of style and function and it's a winner, unlike this movie.

• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.

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