Friday, March 6, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Second ‘City’ isn’t sinful enough

Sincity2W

Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) roars into Sin City, a man on a mission. He’s determined to out-play the local power-monger during a high-stakes poker game ... but, in fact, Johnny also has a lot more on his mind. What else would drive such a flashy young man to such suicidal behavior? Courtesy photo

By
From page A11 | September 05, 2014 |

‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’

2.5 stars

Rating: R for nudity, sexual content, brief drug use and relentless brutal violence

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Meloni, Christopher Lloyd

Unfocused stories minimize our involvement with this lurid sequel

By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic

Nine years is a long time to wait for a sequel, particularly one with interlinked stories that weave in and around the first film’s similarly interconnected narrative.

My memory isn’t up to that challenge. And I’d argue that a film’s potential success shouldn’t rest on a viewer’s willingness to embark on deep research, in order to have a better idea of what’s going on.

But that isn’t the only problem with “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” once again adapted by comic book impresario Frank Miller, from his macabre and über-cynical “Sin City” graphic novel series. The far bigger flaw is that Miller obviously cherry-picked his best stories for the first film, whereas this one is laden with leftovers.

The result is a common cinematic disease: all style and very little substance.

To be sure, Miller and gonzo co-director Robert Rodriguez once again deliver the material with the seamy, amped-up decadence and hard-bitten dialogue that will amuse fans of 1940s and ’50s film noir classics. The atmosphere oozes with scandal: the tough guys hard as granite (literally); the dames, floozies and femme fatales straight out of Hammett and Chandler … assuming, of course, that their women would have pranced about in cleavage-enhancing goth/punk corsets and garters. Or nothing at all.

But do bear in mind — as with the first film — that only the actors are real here; the rest is CGI fabrication. That means all the buildings and streets in (Ba)sin City, not to mention all the action scenes, car chases and death-with-prejudice fist fights, maimings, decapitations and defenestrations, not to mention samurai-style limb slicing and arrows through eyeballs. No more “real” than the gladiator nonsense of “300” and its recent sequel.

As further befitting the material’s noir sensibilities, this is a primarily black-and-white universe, aside from occasional splashes of red (lipstick, blood) or full color, the latter generally employed — with heavy irony — to suggest a character’s innocence.

This is deliberate, of course; the goal is to bring Miller’s savage comic book artwork and sensibilities to the screen. Literally. He and Rodriguez once again succeed, catching the feverish artistic vitality that crackles like heat lightning on every one of Miller’s blasphemously violent pages.

But our potential engagement with the results — as always is the case with live-action movies, as well — depends upon engaging characters and compelling storylines.

And that’s where this sequel falls flat.

“Dame” offers two new stories, along with a short prologue — ample warning of grim things to come — and an update on a fourth tale that began in the previous film. All of these narratives wander in and out of Kadie’s infamous Club Pecos, where stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) entertains patrons nightly; all the stories also feature the rock-hard, essentially indestructible Marv (Mickey Rourke) to one degree or another.

The most involved tale gives this film its subtitle, and gets much of its juice from Eva Green’s wickedly provocative performance as Ava Lord, a flint-eyed high-society skank who could’ve eaten Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson (1944’s “Double Indemnity”) for breakfast. Seems that Ava has “history” with Dwight McCarthy, whom we’ll recall was one of the kinda-sorta good guys in the first film.

A lot of folks may not realize that it is the same character, since the first film’s Dwight was played by Clive Owen, whereas Josh Brolin has taken over here. But yes; it’s the same somewhat self-destructive guy who stays alive mostly due to the protective embrace of Gail (Rosario Dawson) and her heavily armed prostitute allies in Sin City’s even badder “Old Town” section.

Ava has a problem, so she comes to Dwight for help. He tries to ignore her, but can’t help falling into the inky-black pool of her pleading gaze, just as he falls atop her naked body at first opportunity. Seems that Ava’s wealthy but dissolute husband has rather unusual ideas for “punishing” his wife, most of them involving sexual degradation at the willing hands of their man-monster chauffeur, Manute (Dennis Haysbert).

Dwight, unable to stand the images now popping into his head, reluctantly succumbs once again to Ava’s charms … knowing, that by doing so, he’s “letting the monster out.”

Elsewhere …

Cocky, ultra-slick gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) blasts into town in a 1960 Corvette convertible, saunters into Kadie’s and demonstrates the degree to which Lady Luck adores him, by hitting winners on the slot machines. Johnny wants to get into the back room’s high-stakes poker game, where the gleefully corrupt Senator Roark (Powers Booth) fleeces all comers. But Johnny knows that he can out-play Roark, never mind the obvious peril involved with merely attempting to one-up Sin City’s most powerful politico, God forbid succeeding. Small wonder, then, that this saga is dubbed “The Long, Bad Night.”

That title is accurate; Johnny’s night subsequently becomes quite long. And horrific. But it’s also incomprehensible, in terms of his motivation and behavior, not to mention the outcome of his mano a mano poker challenge with Roark. Gordon-Levitt has attitude to spare, and his voice-overs are among the film’s best, but Johnny’s story is bewildering, unsatisfying and ultimately irritating.

Meanwhile …

Nancy hasn’t done well in the aftermath of the first film’s most gripping story, “That Yellow Bastard,” wherein veteran cop John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) repeatedly saved her life, ultimately losing his own in the process. She loved Hartigan, and her soul aches over his absence; her nightly, alcohol-fueled dance routines have become increasingly erratic, and she has taken up target practice with a massive pistol.

Her goal: to kill Roark, instrument of Hartigan’s death, and father of the degenerate lunatic (the “yellow bastard”) who previously menaced her. But she can’t do it; despite ample opportunities (over months? years?), she hasn’t been able to pull the trigger. And her own impotence is eating her alive, as is her anger at Hartigan for having “abandoned” her.

The question, then, is what Nancy will do next.

The large cast clearly has a great time, everybody doing a fine job with the essential decadence and icy immorality. Green is by far the best, shamelessly employing her robustly carnal body to maximum effect. She’s nasty. Booth is corruption personified, his feral grin the stuff of nightmares; Haysbert’s Manute is just plain scary.

Rourke’s Marv is a force of nature, elevated from the first film’s supporting role to full-blown starring prominence here. Marv looks after his own, and he’s always willing to help. Dawson gets plenty of juice from Gail’s feral leer, and Jamie Chung — taking over from the first film’s Devon Aoki — cuts a deadly swath as the silent, sword-wielding Miko, Gail’s most trusted lieutenant.

Unfortunately, this sequel doesn’t give most of these characters enough narrative meat on which to skewer their hard-boiled performances. Strange as it’ll sound, the villains here aren’t as jaw-droppingly twisted and ghastly as the first film’s sickest predators (memorably played by Nick Stahl and Elijah Wood); as a result, this sequel’s fresh vengeance isn’t nearly as satisfying.

After awhile, the bullets, arrows, sword slices and various other lethal skirmishes just, well, bleed together, delivering tired, tedious, and ultimately diminishing returns.

Too bad. Miller and Rodriguez should have quit while they were ahead.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at http://derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com.

Comments

comments

.

News

‘Topping out': Sign a building beam at the Shrem Museum

By Jeffrey Day | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Life after lawn: Fifty greens for shade

By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Bay Area developers join Mace proposal

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

 
Trial ordered in Davis child death case

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

Bob Dunning: There’s an exception to every rule

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
Ukraine declares heavy weapons pullback from front line

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

NASA craft circling Ceres in first visit to dwarf planet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
CHP car hit with bullet on highway

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

UCD police warn of sexual battery incident

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Got sun? Indoor herbs can thrive on windowsills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

How can we know that the products we buy for our homes are safe?

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Quick home improvements that raise your resale value

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Spring-clean your kitchen in five easy steps

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Dryers: Homes’ energy guzzlers just got greener

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

 
UCD improving farming, food production with fewer pesticides

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: B6 | Gallery

PSAs highlight area nonprofits

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

 
Peripheral neuropathy support offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

Workshop eyes creating peace through creative play

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

 
Museum brick sales to end this month

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

 
Cabrillo Club plans membership dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

Waldorf’s spring tea party doubles as open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Register online for Woodland rec classes

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Older adults will discuss conscious aging movement

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7Comments are off for this post

 
Pig out at Pig Day Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Porkers on display at Hattie Weber Museum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

St. John’s shows off cuisine at brunch

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Seniors serious about fitness

By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A11 | Gallery

.

Forum

Obama’s world is a dangerous place

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

Some convicts don’t deserve parole hearings

By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

 
Here’s how to make college cheaper

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

Dirty laundry on the company line

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

Marsh provides radio images of a ‘magical’ Aggie hoops season

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Blue Devil volleyballers cruise in home opener

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS girls track and field team reloads for 2015

By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD women fall at UCR

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Aggie men clinch Big West crown

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Bella Vista slips past DHS softballers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

.

Features

 
Rec Report: Looking ahead to spring break

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

What’s happening

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: B5

 
Wineaux: A local diamond in the rough, revisited

By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A9

.

Arts

Steve Kiser’s work on display at Gallery 1855

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Tables available at Vinyl and Music Fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': Second-rate

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ auditions set

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela celebrate Mandela’s legacy

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
Learn from experts at ‘Art of Painting’ conference

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

Tom Brousseau to visit ‘Live in the Loam’ on KDRT

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

 
.

Business

Honey, we shrank the SUV — and Europe loves it

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, March 6, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B10