Something is amiss in “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.”
The original “Sin City,” released in 2005, felt like something new, something experimental, all rough edges and anger.
In that first “Sin City,” filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and graphic novelist Frank Miller engaged in an inspired collaboration that brought Miller’s “Sin City” stories vividly and violently to life … and death. The novels’ panels are the movie’s templates, their print images faithfully transferred to the screen in harsh and contrasty black and white with effective splashes of color — generally red — digitally added to underline the mayhem.
The original was a highly stylized film-noir caricature with every noir aspect — the chiaroscuro lighting, the tough-talk dialogue, the bone-deep cynicism and the violence — taken to the max.
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Now Miller and Rodriguez are back, again sharing directorial credit. This new “Sin City” features the signature characteristics and many of the original’s characters but seems less adventurous. It feels a little flabby and self-satisfied. The element of surprise is gone.
Rodriguez’s black-and-white photography is less hard-edged, almost creamy, this time around, and his reliance on voice-overs where characters explain themselves feels excessive.
There are several interlinked stories being told here, all involving bad people doing reprehensible things to one another.
In a segment not based on an existing novel, a cocky gambler (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wins a high-stakes poker game against Sin City’s most malevolent citizen (Powers Boothe), and winds up gruesomely tortured for his temerity. In another, a sexy bar dancer (Jessica Alba) falls prey to murderous rage as she mourns the cop (Bruce Willis) who helped her.
The core of the picture is a straight lift from Miller’s “A Dame to Kill For” novel, and in those scenes the movie reclaims a good share of the original “Sin’s” feel-bad mojo.
Credit for that goes to Eva Green, who is really carving out a niche for herself as the nastiest villainess in movies today. She laid claim to that title earlier this year with her work in “300: Rise of Empire” (also based on a Miller story) playing a merciless warrior. In “Sin,” she’s icily evil as an amoral seductress. Red lips, green eyes, a figure that fries the mind of a character (Josh Brolin) who is a fool for her and suffers terribly for his lust-driven foolishness.
Death, dismemberment and madness: These are the wages of sin in this “Sin.”
Soren Andersen: firstname.lastname@example.org