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"SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR"
(2014) (Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Crime Drama: The lives of various corrupt and desperate people intertwine in a seedy town.
PLOT:
Marv (MICKEY ROURKE) is a bodyguard of sorts at a strip club where Nancy (JESSICA ALBA) and other strippers ply their trade for drunken spectators. Still haunted by the suicide of the cop, Hartigan (BRUCE WILLIS), who saved her as a girl and still appears in her hallucinations, Nancy wants to get revenge on powerful Senator Roark (POWERS BOOTHE) whose son had kidnapped her in the past but was shot dead by Hartigan. Roark isn't aware of her murderous intent as he's focused on a young hotshot gambler, Johnny (JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT), who uses his good luck charm, Marcy (JULIA GARNER), to beat the senator at a round of high stakes gambling and wants to put him in his place.

At the same time, Dwight (JOSH BROLIN) is a private detective hired to get photos of Joey (RAY LIOTTA) having an affair with Sally (JUNO TEMPLE). But he's still haunted by his former flame, Ava (EVA GREEN), cheating on him in the past and thus is torn when she reappears in her life. Now married to a rich man, Damien Lord (MARTON CSOKAS), who has his hulking henchman, Manute (DENNIS HAYSBERT), keep an eye on her, Ava quickly seduces Dwight back into her life.

He eventually gets Marv to help him attack Damien's estate, but that results in an unexpected twist that leaves Dwight badly wounded and in need of help from the ladies of Old Town, including Gail (ROSARIO DAWSON) and the sword-wielding Miho (JAMIE CHUNG). Ava then turns to manipulate a local cop, Mort (CHRISTOPHER MELONI), whose partner Bob (JERERY PIVEN), doesn't look highly on Ava. Meanwhile, Johnny ends up badly wounded by Roarke's crew and turns to a back alley doctor, Kroenig (CHRISTOPHER LLOYD), to fix him up so that he can get revenge on the Senator, something Nancy also intends to do.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
If you're an executive working at any of Hollywood's major studios, it's pretty much a no-brainer nowadays to green-light movies that are based on comic books. After all, the number one movie so far of 2014 is "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (with "Guardians of the Galaxy" all but certain to pass that), while the #2 of 2013 was "Iron Man 3," the #1 of 2012 was "The Avengers" and so on.

Granted, and aside from "GoTG," all of those and other past hits feature well to fairly well-known superhero characters, so simply adapting a comic book obviously isn't a guaranteed path to box office gold. After all, that was proven back in 2005 when parts of Frank Miller's graphic novel series (essentially an adult comic cook), "Sin City," were brought to the big screen in a filmed adaptation of the same name.

A film noir style offering from Miller and co-director Robert Rodriguez (with some "guest directing" from Quentin Tarantino), the pic was filmed in front of a blue screen with Miller's signature artistic visuals added in during post production to make the film something of a living and breathing cinematic comic book. I generally liked it from an artistic standpoint (even if the violence and other R-rated content decidedly made it inappropriate for kids) as did most other critics, but it only grossed $74 million domestically, with another $84 million from international coffers.

That's a far cry from "The Avengers" and its $1.5 billion global take, which makes one wonder how it generated a sequel, especially with that taking nearly a decade to arrive on the scene. Now that it has -- once again from co-directors Miller and Rodriguez -- I can tell you that it's pretty much the same old, same old as from before. All of which means if you like your eyes stimulated more than your emotions, you'll probably find this to your liking, particularly if you're a fan of the original.

I'll readily admit -- especially since it's been nearly a decade since I saw and reviewed the first film -- that I don't recall every element of its storyline and thus can't really comment with complete certainty how this sequel ties in from every angle. Some -- including the story of an exotic dancer (Jessica Alba) who wants to avenge the suicide of the cop (Bruce Willis) who earlier saved her by killing the involved corrupt politician (Powers Booth), with the help of the club bouncer of sorts (Mickey Rourke) -- are an obvious continuation from the earlier pic.

Another storyline involving a private eye (Josh Brolin) who gets caught up again with a femme fatale from his past (Eva Green) is based on Miller's 1993 "Sin City" installment "A Dame to Kill For" and is a prequel to an installment found within its predecessor. And Miller -- who penned all of this in screenplay form -- has also included a brand new story involving a cocky young gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who gets in over his head when he decides to win big in the corrupt politician's high-stakes poker game.

Like before, there's plenty of noir style voice-over narration, as well as lots of arresting visuals. They're mostly presented in black and white with bits of color added here and there for emphasis, along with comic book panel style graphics and plenty of over-the-top violence for those into such things.

But while all of that flash captured my immediate attention and held it for a while, it started to get a bit boring and repetitive, especially as things progressed and without any emotional connection to any of the characters or storylines. And with the original film's novelty (in terms of how it was shot and looked on screen) now long worn off, this follow-up doesn't even have that going for it.

Yet another example of style over substance, the film really could have been something had the filmmakers made us care to the same extent that they've overloaded us with eye candy. Not as good as the original, "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" scores a 4.5 out of 10 rating.




Reviewed August 18, 2014 / Posted August 22, 2014


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