Besides being nuttier than a fruit cake, Frank Miller has established a reputation for penning some of the most brutal yet silly comics around. He hit it big in 1986 with his four-issue miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, and has more-or-less been riding off its success since then. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a pretty unremarkable and loosely adapted take on Miller’s comic of the same name, published in 1993. As one might expect, the Sin City franchise has struggled to maintain relevancy in this post-Avengers world.
Rodriguez’s wildly over-the-top action sequences and Tarrantino-esque, blood-squirty fight scenes are here in abundance, but frankly, that’s kind of the problem. The film literally can’t go five minutes without someone being beaten, shot, or otherwise maimed, and it really strikes me as a production that is afraid to take a deep breath and pace itself, lest it lose the attention of the audience. When there isn’t any fighting going on, you can bet the Rodriguez is busy flashing Eva Green’s boobs up on screen, which of course isn’t a bad thing in itself, but I’m left wondering what the point of it all is. I’m tempted to posit that Rodriguez and Miller don’t think very highly of their audience; ‘distraction’ really seems to be the operative word here, as the semi-monochrome palate, breakneck pacing, and even Miss Green’s ample assets are strategically used to shift the audience’s attention away from the sub-par story.
As far as the acting is concerned, performances are serviceable but bland. Mickey Rourke seems like he’s having fun as tough-guy Marv, though, and Powers Booth returns as the wonderfully fun-to-hate Senator Roark. I particularly enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s depiction of Johnny, a charming drifter looking to try his luck in Sin City’s speakeasies. In some ways, he reminded me of his character Brendan Frye in the 2005 film Brick, which is still one of my personal favorites.
The thing about the Sin City franchise is that it is, and has always been, a thing for children, and I mean that in the same way that the 300 franchise is for children as well. At its core, its a mindless, juvenile celebration of fantasy ultra-violence that seeks to corner the “eighteen to twenty-five year old male” demographic with the promise of blood and tits. That being said, in the end it succeeds pretty well at what it sets out to do. No, the plot isn’t great, and while I can’t say the prospect of watching people get punched in the face for an hour and a half really thrills me, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For holds the interest well enough.
I’d like to bring up Sin City’s trademark visual style again briefly, because while it’s certainly a gimmick, at least it’s unique. Personally, I’m of the opinion that a film needs at least one special idea of its own—a unique selling point, if you will—even if it’s just a monochrome palate. The important thing is that when I see that black and white fight scene with vibrant spurts of crimson blood flying across the screen, I know that I’m watching a Sin City movie, which is more than I can say for a lot of films.
Rating: 3 out of 5