Do you ever feel like Frank Miller is basically Dr Seuss without a morality chip?
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is the sequel to the original Sin City that came out almost a decade ago. Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez return to direct another adaptation of the Frank Miller Graphic Novel series with several stories intersecting and told in the groundbreaking art style of the original. Speaking of which lets just start there because it’s easily the best thing about this movie.
It looks incredible. The way Rodriguez and Miller have translated the static pages of his art to a moving picture are creative, ingenuitive, and downright captivating. Not to mention graphically violent and sensual as well, just as a fair warning. The black and white style almost give the feeling that every frame were drawn with a giant ink pen on the screen, with occasional splashes of color wandering into the mix as if they’ve stumbled into the wrong part of town. When you really think about it, it’s kind of amazing a movie like this even got made once, let alone twice! Hollywood has very little patience for risk, which is why so many movies come out looking and sounding exactly the same. So when something stands out like this it’s hard not to at least tip the cap as a thank you for breaking out of that box a bit and just doing something different, even if the end product doesn’t quite live up to the effort.
And here? it just doesn’t quite jive. In fact, for me, the movie never quite seems to be able to find any value outside it’s unique presentation. Sure, the character design is like nothing you’ve seen, but do we really care about these characters? I agree, the landscapes and locations are well visualized, but does the action feel cohesive and maintain momentum? Yes, the stylized violence is brutal and beautiful, brute-aful maybe?, but is there a cost to it beyond it’s foundational depravity? Not really, and that cost the movie a chance at truly “being” special instead of just looking special. Perhaps it’s just a natural consequence of trying to put such a dark and nihilistic source material on screen, but the weight of the sin in sin city quickly becomes too heavy to really enjoy it with any true sense of humanity or joy. Add to that a mishandling of the multiple storylines and you can see why the overall feel just gets a bit hard to slog through. I mean you’ve got Brolin, Willis, Rourke, Alba, and Gordon Levitt, giving decent performances in these vignettes, and yet the sloppy editing and story momentum keep me from seeing them as anything more than just props in some avant garde art installation.
At the end of the day, Sin City A Dame to Kill For is a gorgeously envisioned work that continues the artistic risk taking that made the first one stand out. It’s unfortunate that after arriving at this visual feast, all of the food at the table is made of plastic. I give it a C-