One of the many pitfalls of being an enthusiastic movie geek is having to wait vast amounts of time for a sequel. Already this year we’ve had comic book movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier leaving us hanging on for more, as they both ended (as is the Marvel way) with a set up for the next instalment. Waiting can be a strangely exhausting game. And now that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has finally been unleashed after so many false starts and promised release dates that failed to materialise, it’s hard to believe it’s actually here, nine years after the first film.
Nearly a decade ago, back in 2005, Sin City was a breath of fresh, white-blood filled air. With its swaggering stylistics, beautiful contemporising of classic noir storytelling, smoky jazz themed score and impeccably chosen cast, there was so much to love. And love it I certainly did. Such is the passage of time since, however, that there’s a strong question mark over whether Frank Miller’s unique visual imagery would still hold up having been emulated to death in the convening years?
Well, yes it does. Mere minutes into the film and it’s like no time has passed at all – the music, the characters, the black and white figures cut with splashes of colour, the sex and the violence are all back and back with a vengeance.
This review, of course, is aimed towards aficionados of the original as there’s little to no point in returning to the world of Sin City if there was nothing there for you in the first place. Frank Miller’s blend of smut and splatter are an acquired taste and since the graphic novels were written years ago, with Robert Rodriguez dutifully adapting them frame by frame (hence Miller’s co-director credit) they’ve lost none of their power – a fate that befalls many a sequel written after the fact.
The main worry about Sin City 2’s return was whether the same spark, both performance wise and in terms of the visual inventiveness would still feel vibrant and right. It’s easy to dress people the same, but there’s no guarantee that you can recapture the essence that made the picture feel special in the first place. And yet it’s all there. Rodriguez has always been strong at presenting familiar actions in a new way and he hasn’t missed a trick here, especially in the clever use of 3D to enhance the comic book cut out feel, while avoiding the usual muting of colours that the effect can bring – especially clever as the majority of footage is in black and white.
The new additions to the cast feel like they’ve always been a part of the world too, with the rather fine talents of Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green taking centre stage in the new tales of revenge and lust, alongside some old favourites… and not so favourite characters. For while watching Brolin and Mickey Rourke’s magnificently brutal Marv carve their way through a slew of bad guys is a joy to behold, it’s easy to forget exactly how toweringly detestable Powers Boothe was, and still is, as Senator Roarke – even his character’s background portrait elicits enough evil to give Dorian Gray a run for his money.
What works so well in A Dame to Kill For‘s structure is that it’s so effortless for it to fill the screen with old and new characters, as the tales exist both before, during and after those depicted in the first film. They bring resolution for some and tragedy for others.
On a slightly sad note, certain faces are also conspicuous by their absence, with the appearance of Manute (this time portrayed by 24‘s Dennis Haysbert) a jarring reminder that Michael Clarke Duncan is no longer with us, as is also the case with Brittany Murphy. Missed but most definitely not forgotten.
Of genuine surprise though – and this despite the endless gorno films that have seen the light of day since, with Hostel being released the same year as Sin City – is how much of an impact Rodriguez and Miller’s violence still makes. From eye gouging to head slicing, the white blood has lost none of its impact. It’s a welcome shock though, in an era where so many adult orientated sequels have gone for softer ratings in search of financial gain.
If there’s an element missing from the belated sequel though, it’s the more obscenely surreal and grotesque stories that peppered the original, with That Yellow Bastard and Elijah Wood’s frighteningly realised maniac (fully exploited in the film of the same name) un-replaced by similarly vile deviants.
Yet Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is still impressive stuff. The allure of the world has lost none of its power or appeal, despite nearly a decade passing between films, and here’s hoping there’s more to come sooner rather than later. Cinema could really do with a regular injection of such sublime sin.
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