Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

In case you’ve somehow forgotten, Sin City was a really excellent movie. It looked unlike almost anything before filmed, it had very entertaining stories, its cast was amazing, and it dove into the subject matter like nothing else. It felt like a walking, breathing, comic book. And completely forgetting that The Spirit exists — because you should forget, and probably did before I mentioned it here — it remained as a single entity nothing like anything before or after it. For almost a decade it remained this way. Now, we finally have a sequel. Or, a sidequel. Prequel? Successor? Sure, let’s go with that one.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is another Sin City movie, which is something for the longest time nobody thought would happen. It has a few different stories, and jumps around on the time frame. Characters who died in Sin City are suddenly alive again. Others look different, and will be shaped by events in this movie. The film is technically based on the second comic book in writer/co-director Frank Miller’s series, although certain sections were written specifically for the movie.

I feel like it would be pointless to try to detail all of the narratives and characters. By my count, there are four of them. The film begins by jumping back and forth, introducing all of them, before settling on the titular story, “A Dame to Kill For.” This is our longest story, and perhaps the most captivating. After it concludes, we get to finish off the shorter stories. When it hits home video, we can only hope an edition will be released where we can watch each story in its entirety, much like the first film. That’s the best way to enjoy a Sin City movie.

Or, perhaps I should just say “that’s the best way to enjoy Sin City.” Apart from a couple of re-casts, A Dame to Kill For fits in perfectly with the original film. Watching them back-to-back offers an experience of watching a really long version of one movie; they mesh that well together. What Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller have done is create additional stories to the Sin City movie canon. They didn’t create a sequel; they just created more.

In some ways, I can see this being a problem for some people. Many of the tales of Sin City are similar in plotting and theme, even if the characters are all different. For some, that’s enough of a difference to keep things interesting. For others, that’s just putting a mask on a sheep and calling it a cow. Don’t think too hard about that one.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is a beautiful, beautiful movie. Yes, even with all the violence, blood, nudity, smoking, drinking, and all those other distasteful things. It really does look like a comic book brought to life — maybe even more this time. It’s primarily in black and white, fitted with heavy shadows, and every twinge of color, whenever present, stands out. There are small touches that make it seem even less like a live-action film and more like a comic book or graphic novel. Look at the way the arrows have been rendered, or the background of the city whenever a character is standing on a mountaintop or driving along an outer road. It’s also incredibly stylized, as one might expect, especially if they saw the first film.

A wonderful cast has been assembled for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Maybe a better cast than the original, if that was even possible. Returning actors include Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Jamie King, and Powers Boothe. New additions include Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Ray Liotta, Jamie Junh, Juno Temple, among others. Apparently Lady Gaga was in this movie and I didn’t even notice. It’s almost too loaded.

And at only just over 100 minutes, it definitely could have been longer. The first film wasn’t exceptionally long on its theatrical release, either — although it ran longer than this one — but it was given an extended cut on home video that fleshed certain elements out. Here’s hoping this one does well enough in theaters that it will get a similar home video treatment. Seeing more from actors who only get one scene would be nice. Or, really, just more in general would be great. All the actors are fun to watch, and all the scenes are enjoyable. I wouldn’t have cut a single thing from what we get here, and another thirty minutes of content wouldn’t have hurt.

The elephant in the room, however, is that A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the first film. With the slight repetition, along with the visual aesthetic not being quite as fresh to us, it loses some of its mystique and appeal, especially if viewed as a separate product from the original. Viewed as an extension of the same film, it works incredibly well. It does so as a standalone, or a successor, too, but I think it’s best viewed back-to-back with Sin City.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is basically the sequel/prequel/extension/successor that we could have hoped for. It took nine years, but it finally happened. We got our Sin City 2. And it’s good. It’s very similar to its predecessor — too similar, I wager, for some, as there is repetition in plots and themes — and it fits right in. The stylized aesthetic, the ultraviolence, the sendup of film noir — everything you want from a Sin City movie is present. What a fun movie.

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