film review: sin city: a dame to kill for
Reuniting the old (such as Jessica Alba) whilst adding some new (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and messing around with non-linear plots is the order of the day for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, the long-awaited sequel to 2005’s Sin City. Ultra violence? Check. Beautiful cinematography? Check. Creating female characters that are either headed for death or sex work? Check.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has a disjointed, complicated storyline. It follows old and new characters through the city: some wanting nothing more than revenge, like Jessica Alba’s Nancy, who is haunted by the ghost of Hartigan (Bruce Willis’ character from the first film). Nancy fantasises about killing Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) as payback for Hartigan’s death. Other characters hope to bring some justice into a city riddled with corruption, such as Marv (Mickey Rourke) who intervenes when, in the opening scenes, a group of rowdy frat boys attack and set fire to a homeless man. The biggest segment, subtitled “A Dame To Kill For,” follows Dwight (formerly played by Clive Owen but now by Josh Brolin) who rescues prostitutes from their violent, murderous clientele.
The first Sin City was totally ridiculous – the characters were two-dimensional and the violence was glorified. It was also something we’d never seen before, monochrome whores with bright red lipstick and sapphire eyes made for captivating viewing. This combination actually made it fun viewing. Despite the constant parade of macabre violence and sexist undertones (not even undertones – a lot of it was blatant) you couldn’t help rooting for these characters. Obviously, the audience was supposed to root for them – setting them up against a backdrop of corrupt cops and politicians and dropping them in a playing field that was anything but level. Director Robert Rodriguez managed to do this without patronising the audience, perhaps because the protagonist of each segment was so flawed in themselves (how could they help it – Sin City infects all wounds and leaves them to fester into oblivion). Very few directors can make violence seem not commonplace (that the vast majority of directors have made it ordinary is a bit horrifying) but oddly satisfying. When Sin City’s Hartigan shot a child molester in the crotch people didn’t flinch, they smirked.
I was disappointed with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. I was prepared to be – the main reason why the first film was such a trail blazing success was the way it was filmed in monochrome with carefully chosen splashes of colour. I was prepared for this film to be enjoyable the way the first one was but basically more of the same. I ended up leaving the cinema thoroughly irritated.
When I watched the first film I rolled my eyes a little at the depictions of women. Talented director he may be, Rodriguez seemed to think that women existed to be dolls, playthings. The looked pretty; they said sassy, film noir things and had formidable skills in all the martial arts. It was a bit like watching a little boy all grown up playing with dolls. It was not more of the same in the sequel. Women are the enemy. They are succubi, to be feared, tamed and conquered. And the way the men react to them is just as offensive. There is a particular scene that really got my blood boiling involving Dwight (Josh Brolin) and Ava (Eva Green) – Dwight slaps her face hard and then proceeds to have sex with her. The slap was because she deserved it and the sex was because he just couldn’t control himself. The same tired, utterly offensive and dangerous story not just told in movies but in the media. Women must take care and control themselves lest a man lose control. If I were a man I’d be pretty pissed it off at those implications. As it is, I’m a woman, and I’m fuming.
On a side note, does anyone remember the supposed controversy around Eva Green’s promotional poster? It showed a hint of her nipple and people were aghast. Seriously, this is a film that was the mutilation carnival and people are upset over a nipple? We’ve all got them, haven’t we?
While the first movie has definite re-watchability, I won’t be bothering with A Dame to Kill For again. Apart from the misogyny it was just nothing new. Another one for the ‘sequels suck’ category.