By Bill Arceneaux
“Outlaws will become heroes,” promises the ad campaign for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. In between episodes of The Simpsons marathon, commercials for the sequel show up one after another, presenting viewers with unbridled violence amongst a digital noir landscape. Basically, the first movie, but more – more blood, more broads, more bleakness. A perfect setting for heroism, I say.
We kick things off with the ever huggable Marv (Mickey Rourke). He awakes from a severe car accident, with no immediate memory of how he got there. As his narration dictates his thoughts, Marv acts in sync. When he thinks about his pills, he swallows his pills. When he thinks about confusion, he looks confused. When he thinks about stabbing, he stabs. It would be a comedy sketch if it weren’t so disturbing, and it would be dramatically effective if it weren’t so laughable.
It’s a city without justice. And you can’t have justice without sin – the sin of tone deafness, it seems.
Much like the first movie, A Dame to Kill For is meant as a vignette of stories, connected only by location. However, when it starts, two stories are being told at once, without any discernable cut between. Would the film continue to follow suit, and be structurally different from the original? Sort of, but not really. By the time the main story starts, things begin to settle into a familiar groove, but all stories seem to be taking place very close together in continuity. Almost on top of one another. Almost like a train wreck. It’s not difficult to keep track of each arc, but it does feel strongly problematic, and without much finesse.
The original film had a heavy emotional punch with drastic consequences, making us care about these anti-hero outlaws. In the follow up, there is a numbness at play. An aggressive numbness. Heads fly off shoulders, goo flies out of bodies, etc. The ante of violence isn’t upped, but the delicate atmosphere of bright humanity in the scum-filled darkness is dialed back. The original had good intentions behind its vigilantism, where A Dame to Kill For is out for blood mindlessly.
Visually potent and with enough action to satisfy a ticket purchase, this co-directed by Frank Miller flick feels a lot like a post breakup project. What state of mind, or phase of his soul, was Mr. Miller in when he assisted in making this movie? Something was burning hard, and I’d be willing to finger his sense of joy. Pictures of him at the premiere almost confirm, from body language, his mood. When the end credits rolled, I felt like a grumpy old man with a bad back and a grudge against the world.
During my Simpsons feast (which I’ll be in for several more days), these A Dame to Kill For promotional adverts could potentially make me into a cane waving Grampa. I refuse to let it, and will stick with my Hans Moleman personality, thank you very much.
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Best Moment: Joseph Gordon Levitt gambling and scheming.
Worst Moment: That unpleasant feeling of disgust you get as the end credits roll.
Advice: Use a stress ball regularly, or you’ll end up like Frank Miller.