A Dame To Kill For is the follow up film to 2005’s Sin City and is once again based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller and Directed Robert Rodriguez and Miller .
Again a set of vignettes featuring several inhabitants of Basin City, the shadowy city of corrupt politicians, dirty cops, dames and bruisers. This film just like the previous one is chock full of hardboiled dialogue, ultra-violence and sex, in fact it probably features more, especially of the latter. The recognisable film processing returns as well rendering the film in stylised black and white with colourisation being used to highlight certain elements throughout with many scenes replicating Frank Miller’s art .
Kadie’s Saloon once again serves as a hub for the action with Marv (Mickey Rourke) knocking back drinks and watching over dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba). Dwight (Josh Brolin) has attempted to put his shady past behind him – now making a vaguely more honest living as a P.I catching out cheating husbands however Dwight finds things spinning out of control when he stumbles across his former lover, Ava Lord (Eva Green).
Elsewhere Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is back in town with a score to settle.
Mickey Rourke’s anti-hero Marv is once again one of the highlights for numerous reasons not only is Rourke’s performance impressive , his gravel throated voice is exactly how you would expect Marv to sound but with some subtle prosthetics he looks so much like the character it’s uncanny. Whilst Marv is a nigh invulnerable bruiser his fractured memory and reliance on his pills add a sympathetic layer to a character who is essentially a psychotic killer with good intentions. The introductory story “Just Another Saturday Night” paints a vivid picture of an average day for Marv, dazed and confused looking at a dead body and two smashed up cars, one of them a cop car and trying to figure out how he got there and what happened.
The main story “ A Dame To Kill For” is that of Dwight as he finds himself unable to resist the pull of his old life and his old lover Ava. Brolin captures Dwight’s mental turmoil well, like the junkie who’s determined to stay clean but inevitably goes back for another fix. Green is in her element as the devious and manipulative femme fatale Ava who wields her sexuality like a weapon pulling several men’s strings and the interplay between her and Brolin is great.
Green spends as much time out of her clothes as in them which works perfectly in the context of the story, it serves to show exactly why Dwight and so many others become playthings for her to manipulate. The stylised nature of many of her scenes also renders her into shadow much like Frank Miller’s art which is never explicit in it’s depictions of sex.
Elsewhere the story stumbles a little, Johnny’s story “The Long Bad Night” finds him seeking out the nefarious Senator Roark played with gusto by Powers Boothe. With the rest of the characters already being familiar Joseph Gordon Levitt’s card sharp stands out and not in a good way. His story seems somewhat superfluous as it has no connection to any of the other characters which is what makes Sin City work, the interconnectedness of the characters lives. This story serves more as a reminder of just how heinous Senator Roark is.
The other story “The Angel Of Death” features Alba’s Nancy as she deals with the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis) becoming withdrawn constantly thinking about killing the untouchable Roark. Nancy and Marv’s relationship really comes into play here as the hulking bruiser really is a surrogate father to the dancer that everyone drools over. Alba is great as the haunted but feisty dancer and one exchange between the two sums them both up brilliantly with Nancy stating “Looks like trouble” and Marv replying with a laugh and saying “Looks like Christmas” . This is definitely the better of the two written for the screen stories adding a real sense of closure.
A Dame To Kill For has rather notedly bombed at the Box Office in comparison to the previous film there are likely myriad reasons for this one of the main ones being it took so long for this film to show up, nearly ten years. Ten years is a long time. Another factor being the look of the film which dazzled people the first time around doesn’t have the same effect due to the familiarity even though it’s still impressively shot.
The first film was surprisingly popular despite its relatively unknown source material, it was a cult film that punched above its weight and viewed in the context of Marvel’s now common place smash hit films based on comics this follow up is seen unfairly as a disappointment . This is missing the point entirely. Sin City was never intended to be for a mainstream audience, the stories are just as dark, brutal and ugly as the characters but it’s a compelling and seductive darkness. As Marv memorably put it “Walk down the right back alley in Sin City, and you can find anything”
One thing that will puzzle those not overly familiar with Frank Miller’s graphic novels is the chronology of the story, as it isn’t linear as might be expected . Despite being seperate stories, several of the “yarns” in Sin City take place at the same time just in different places with different characters. This explains the presence of Marv here despite what happens at the end of The Hard Goodbye which was in the first film. Equally many may not grasp that Josh Brolin is playing the same character as Clive Owen did, although A Dame To Kill For takes place before The Big Fat Kill which was in the previous film in which Dwight has a new face, which explains why having Brolin play him here actually makes sense narratively. The Angel of Death however takes place after the events of That Yellow Bastard.