Robert Rodriquez, in this case co-director along with comic book legend Frank Miller, has a special relationship with sequels. He’s never been afraid to continue or revisit stories and characters, and with his successful Spy Kids movies, the El Mariachi “trilogy”, and weird B-movie spoof series Machete, he’s also been able to take film franchises in diverse directions. In this case, however, he’s joined forces with Frank Miller again to adapt more of his Sin City graphic novel “yarns” – shortfilm-sized neo-noir mini-flicks that all have a location (the fictional Basin City) in common.
This time, only two of the four stories (a short intro, Just another Saturday night & A dame to kill for) have been published in book form, with two new stories completing the film’s 102 minute running time. In some regards, this film feels more integrated and coherent as a feature, with the intercutting between stories being subtler and more natural than 2005’s Sin City, which was, for the most part, three distinct short films. Here, although we are presented with big chunks of each story at a time, characters, locations, and scenes are shared between stories.
Rodriquez and Miller (it’s unclear who did what, except the writing, which Miller takes full credit for) did a great job of translating a very sparse, flat, black-and-white world into glorious 3D. The three-dimensional versions of Miller’s original character drawings in the opening credits, for example, is a visual treat. It’s clear that the world these characters live in is a comic book universe, where gravity applies selectively and being beaten to a pulp doesn’t stop anyone.
Sin City has never been about grand thematic statements or emotional connection, and A dame to kill for is no different. It tells dark and dreary noir-inspired stories that are all about style and “cool”, and not cerebral in the slightest. It’s often better to not question character motivation, but just to leave your faith in Frank Miller, who’s already leading you to the next cool cinematic cliche. It’s hammy dialogue (mostly voiceover monologue) can be seen as silly, or a tongue-in-cheek throwback to an idealised film world.
The original Sin City flick was a grand new vision, with three distinct short films combined into a cool collection. In A dame to kill for, the film feels more cohesive and connected, but 102 minutes of over-the-top cartoon physics brawls can get tiring. Ironically, it’ll probably function much better as separate shorts. Like they did for the first film, I really hope they release another “recut & extended” edition for home media, where each story can be viewed individually as a short, standalone, digestable shortfilm.
It’s a fun ride filled with violence, lust, and over-the-top everything, which pretty much fills the shoes left by the first film, but 3Ds it up a bit, and doesn’t distract with it’s splashes of colour, now that we’re more used to the trademark look. In one scene Dwight (in voiceover) describes his former lover as “not worth a single moment’s thought, but I can’t stop thinking about her”. In some weird way, this film’s “style vs substance” argument mirrors that concept: perhaps not worth much in the traditional sense, but you’ll probably enjoy the film anyway.
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