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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

August 22, 2014

Sin City has always been about style more than anything else.

Even the original comic was about trying to capture a specific feeling and look. The Hard Goodbye is very much a masterpiece of sequential art, and it’s an awesome story. When it was brought to life in 2005 with Mickey Rourke as Marv it was really amazing. In fact, everything about the first Sin City is well done and fun despite being about the most depressing and terrible place imagined. It’s especially impressive that it wound up being so enjoyable when you remember that one of the three stories was about a serial killer, another was about a child rapist-murderer, and the final story was about whores killing cops and then trying to hide the body.

The reason why it was so fun and so successful was because it gave us this fetishized version of noir. Sin City isn’t the neo-noir of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (humorously enough a movie also from 2005) it’s an amped up funhouse mirror version of pulp crime stories and noir films of the 40s and 50s. Every resident of the titular city is a gun toting cigar chomping madman and the heroes are absurd. Marv is a man who literally has to be shocked twice by an electric chair, Dwight is a maniac so dangerous that he must constantly keep himself in check, and John Hartigan is so righteous that the only thing that can break him is the idea that they would hurt the little girl he saved. The villains are equally sick and twisted, and the city itself is an almost supernatural place of corruption.

It’s greatest accomplishment has and always will be it’s ability to make us yearn for these sorts of stories with all of our being. To remember this twisted version of noir over reality.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is trying to capture the feel of something that’s trying to capture the feel of something else.

The same reason a lot of the later Sin City comics weren’t as well received as the original yarn is the same reason that this movie doesn’t work. The Hard Goodbye is a great standalone story with a fantastic leading character and a tragic definitive ending. Bringing Marv back time and time again because he’s so awesome to draw and write makes him very quickly lose his macho badass mystique, turning him into a twisted low-level superhero who for some reason is trapped in over-the-top hard boiled crime stories. We’re not trying to outdo the intense narration of noir films or fetishize femme fatales even more, now we’re trying to outdo the already ridiculous Sin City narration and trying to make these characters even more ridiculous. All of which leads to an inevitable let down.

It’s been almost a decade since the Sin City film came out and almost twenty-five years since The Hard Goodbye was first published in Dark Horse Presents. If this movie had come out in 2008 or even 2010 it would have been a bit of a meh sequel but it wouldn’t have felt so out of place. The titular vignette A Dame to Kill For is based off of the comics and watching it onscreen I was suddenly reminded of how much the story relies on narration (that was flatly delivered) and cliched characters that are simply uninteresting.

The other vignette that is based on the comics is Just Another Saturday Night, a piece of gallows humor following, of course, Marv (Rourke) and serves as a pretty good cold open. Nancy’s Last Dance felt strange and disjointed, especially since it bleeds into Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s vignette The Long Bad Night. The Long Bad Night is probably the best section of the movie because rather than adapting a boring tale or shoving fan favorites like Nancy or Marv down our throats it does what Sin City does best. It gives us an unbelievable main character and uses them to tell us a story about the worst city imaginable, continuing to build the comics/film’s most important character: the setting itself. Sadly, even that section can’t save this movie, especially since it’s chopped up in the middle by A Dame To Kill For.

I wouldn’t suggest seeing this movie because it’s just a vanity project for Miller and Rodriguez. You’re way better off just watching the first one or reading the original comics.

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