Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For


Director:Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

Cast:Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Powers Boothe, Eva Green, Josh Brolin

Running Time:102.00


Much like the lucky coin Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Johnny clutches, I have to pick a side. And Sin City: A Dame to Kill For just doesn't have enough in it to recommend.

Let's start with the good: Powers Boothe, reprising his role as the heavy, is terrific. He plays the corrupt Senator Roark with the appropriate amount of menace and ham. Roark dishes out sadistic punishments to anyone he doesn't like but relishes in lines like "Let's give him a hand," as he presents a severed hand to someone who dared cross him.

Equally good is Eva Green as Ava, the titular dame. She absolutely commits to the role, going all the way with the camp and sexiness the role requires. She's a perfect femme fatale, seducing a host of men, including Christopher Meloni, having some fun tweaking his role from Law & Order: SVU. 

Overall, the stories"”particularly the simple but brutal "The Long Bad Night""”are engaging, and I love to hear the hard-boiled film noir dialogue, even if some of it is cheesy. So why am I still on the fence about it? There are several reasons, actually.

The first and biggest disappointment is the feeling of "been there, done that." The original Sin City, despite being a little too long and impressed with itself, definitely felt like nothing I'd ever seen before. But after nearly a decade of advances in special effects and cinematography, there's nothing to wow here. In fact, the movie looks quite cheap but not in a way that adds to the grimy texture of the town.

There's also a big letdown without Clive Owen here as Dwight. Nothing against Josh Brolin, who may in fact be more suited as the naive killer lured out of retirement by Ava, but seriously, he's no Clive Owen. That guy has a surplus of charisma, even in unlikable roles like his Oscar-nominated turn in Closer. Other re-casting choices make sense: Michael Clarke Duncan sadly passed away, and Devon Aoki was pregnant during filming. But those characters aren't crucial to the story like Dwight.

I also couldn't help but shake the feeling that half the cast was only doing this for the paycheck. Mickey Rourke and especially Bruce Willis brought a special lived-in quality to their characters in the original. But here, their reprisals seem more out of obligation than desire. There's an attempt to give Jessica Alba's Nancy some of that same weariness, but she's not the caliber of actress to pull that off. The movie features far too many of her stripteases, including one set to an absolutely dreadful song performed by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

So it all comes down to a coin flip. For some, the enjoyable parts may be enough to obscure the weaknesses. But for me, I can't quite recommend another stay in Sin City.  


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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