SIN CITY: A DAME TO DIE FOR. Starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, Ray Liotta, Stacy Keech and Lady Gaga. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Rated MA (Strong violence, sexualised violence and sex scenes). 102 minutes.
In 2005, Robert Rodriguez’s strikingly visual film of Frank Miller graphic novels, Sin City, was received with some acclaim. It brought graphic novels vividly life, sometimes to ultra-graphic life, playing with black-and-white photography with unexpected splashes of colour, sinister locations, heavy on black, a range of characters whose facial features were those from comic strips rather than of realism. Visually, Sin City was most impressive.
However, considering the contents of the stories as well as the violence and frequent brutality of the action, Sin City, for many, was something of a depressing experience. Sin City was ugly, a highly amoral world, a world of violent vengeance.
Nine years later, here is a sequel.
The line-up for the cast of the original film was most impressive, many fine actors turning up in all kinds of situations. Several of the characters have returned and some of the original cast have returned, particularly Jessica Alba as Nancy, Mickey Rourke (heavily made up to look more than a touch monstrous) as Marv. But now Clive Owen has been replaced by Josh Brolin, Rosario Dawson as Gail, Powers Boothe as the sinister Senator Roark And Bruce Willis reappears as a ghostly presence.
We are introduced to the tone, style and look of the film with the prologue featuring Marv, his amnesia, his effectiveness with a gun. Then there are three stories.
The first one is quite interesting with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a cocky young man who assumes that he can have success, as he says, with casinos and women. Off he goes to a casino, meets up with one of the girls there, Marci, and is successful at the slot machines. Off he goes, even more cockily, to play poker with Senator Roark and his odd associates. The young man can shuffle, cut, deal with dexterity – and can also win, to the humiliation of the Senator who does not take this lightly. And wreaks some brutal revenge. Stop! There is a 30 minute or so intermission in this story while we go on to another.
The second story introduces the character of Dwight, this time played by Josh Brolin, photographing a rendezvous between Ray Liotta and Juno Temple to get photos for Liotta’s wife. But, Liotta is more loathsome that we originally think and Dwight descends from the skylight to defend the rather avaricious young woman. Dwight is then contacted by Ava (Eva Green) who might seem to be a dame to die for but, of course, she is a much more ruthless, glamorous and seductive, femme fatale. She wants to use Dwight for her own purposes, wants to get rid of her husband (Marton Csokas), team up with an industrialist (Stacy Keach), while relying on the absolute loyalty and devotion of her chauffeur (Dennis Haysbert, substituting for the late Michael Clarke Duncan). Then she wants to get rid of Dwight, but he returns, with two sexy martial arts assistants and they wreak havoc on the security guards, the chauffeur and Ava.
Then it’s time to return to Jojnny’s story, his getting his fingers and wounds fixed by an eccentric Christopher Lloyd, and back to the slot machines, the Senator’s game, to confront and humiliate him again. Not something he takes lying down.
The third story concerns Nancy, from the original film (Jessica Alba), a dancer in a sleazy bar who wants to kill the Senator because of his causing the death of Hartigan. This means that Bruce Willis can only be present as a ghost, influencing Nancy, appearing just in time for her advantage against the Senator. She is helped by Marv as they ride by bike to the Senator’s mansion, get rid of all his security guards – often, as in the Dwight story, the film referred reverting to black-and-white animation which distances the audience while involving it in more massacre-like killings – and confront the Senator.
At the end, we see, from above, the skyline of Sin City, listening to some observations, which we already know quite vividly, of how evil it all is.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released September 18 2014.