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September 17, 2017

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

by Franz Patrick


Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)
★★ / ★★★★

Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is a disappointing sequel to a visually stunning, funny, thrilling, and engaging picture that is still unique to this day. While it does offer two opposite but interesting performances, the screenplay by Miller fails to offer anything fresh or exciting. He forgot to ask and answer a most basic question: What makes the sequel worth visiting?

Perhaps Miller thought that the visual acrobatics and trickeries would be enough to sustain our attention. While I still enjoyed that the film is presented in beautiful black-and-white, painted with bright primary colors once in a while, there is barely any dimension to any of the characters. And although most of them are supposed to be tough and have a proclivity for bloody violence, it does not mean that there should not be anything else to them. Successful graphic novels that fall under the action genre translated onto screen tend to work well as drama, too. It is because audiences are able to emotionally invest in the characters since the characters are, in a way, a reflection of ourselves—our insecurities, our doubts, we feeling like underdogs at times.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Johnny, gifted with hands that are lucky. Every time he puts a dollar into a slot machine, coins come rushing down like waterfall. Card games are a piece of cake for he always gets the best hand. He hopes to snag the attention of the feared Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), still angry about his son’s death. Gordon-Levitt plays Johnny with a calculated cool and we hope for the character to get exactly what he wants. But the story takes place in Sin City, not la-la land.

Eva Green plays Ava, a beautiful, seductive woman who hopes to be set free from her abusive husband. She enlists the help of a photographer named Dwight (Josh Brolin), a former lover who remains to have feelings for her despite her previous act of betrayal. Green is delicious in every scene because she plays her character like a snake eyeing its dinner. Ava is the most unpredictable of the bunch and Green knows it. And so she milks every frame of every scene.

The rest relies on platitudes. The script has a tendency to offer lines such as “Death is like life in Sin City.” Perhaps it is meant to be a serious commentary on the moral decay of the place but it comes across as cornball fluff. And speaking of cornball fluff, Jessica Alba once again rests on her physical beauty and fails to create a convincing character who is angry and full of angst. It is not entirely her fault.

Alba plays a stripper—one that remains fully clothed for the duration of the performance—who wishes to end the life of Roark. But every time she is given the opportunity, she cannot muster her fingers to pull the trigger. I was confused as to why Miller wrote the character to be this way in this film when he knows that Alba is not a performer who has much range. She is good at playing soft, flirtatious, and friendly characters.

What she lacks is a desperation in the eyes to denote her character’s craving to really hurt someone for the sake of payback. The screenplay demands the character to disfigure herself to come across as tough. It does not work because even though her outer appearance has changed, the inside—the absence of inner brutality—remains the same.

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