‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For:’ Titles With Colons Mess Everything Up

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, as a movie, hardly does its job. As a moving-picture episode weaving together a few comic book stories, it mostly suffices. Miller doesn’t so much “adapt” his comics for the screen as much as just transfer them there, to what is becoming a somewhat tiresome effect. The movie starts with a long, character-defining intro, in which Marv (Mickey Rourke), the Neanderthal-headed tough guy, drinks and grunts his way into a blind rage, killing and beating hoodlums, all the while explaining that he doesn’t know why or how he got there, and that in Sin City, this is how it goes.

From there, we shift to the story of Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a sort of outsider who’s decided he’s going to conquer Sin City by way of gambling. He doesn’t quite know what he’s in for, though, when he sits himself at a poker table with Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) and challenges the corruption and violence of the most powerful man in the metropolis. Johnny doesn’t last long however, and we’re transported next to the titular story, in which Ava Lord (Eva Green), a perpetually naked, sexed up siren entraps her former beau, Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) and embroils him in a murderous scheme involving her rich ass of a husband and an inhumanly strong bodyguard, Manute (Dennis Haysbert, who loses an eye — is he in good hands now, Allstate?!).

We circle back to Kadie’s Saloon, the center of trouble and tears throughout the movie to focus on Nancy (Jessica Alba), a stripper full of sadness and more recently full of booze who won’t rest until she avenges the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis, who’s in full on Sixth Sense ghost mode in this one).

The voice overs of Marv, Johnny, Dwight, and Nancy are insufferably “cool,” in that pulp fiction sort of way. They’re tortured and self-destructive. Their gravelly and sinister tones imply that their lives are bad in a serious way, but not so serious that they’ll get the hell out of there. The cadence of their gripes is entertaining, to a point, but the lack of actual humanity makes it grow all weary after a while. Marv’s rage-infused blackouts aren’t okay, aren’t comprehensible, and we don’t sympathize.

The male characters played by Chris Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, and Josh Brolin are soaked to the bone in old-school misogyny; in Sin City, all men are testosterone headcases who could use a good therapist. Women are either cold-blooded and ruthless, as Ava and the killer street chicks are, or resigned to their “piece of meat”-ness, as Nancy is. This dichotomy is annoyingly simple and boring, at the least, and gross, reductionist, and celebratory of attitudes that don’t need perpetuating right now, at the most. Sure, it’s fun and funny for a little while, but only if the filmmakers make clear how actually backwards these characterizations are, and there isn’t much of that. Sin City is a straight homage to a time when the thinking was worse. Do we really need that?

No one, not one character, breaks the mold. That fact doesn’t do it any favors. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For ends with an abrupt moment, not so much a “third act resolution” as movies are supposed to have, but more of a, “we’ll see you next time,” close of the chapter. Though, I don’t know if I will see it next time. I suppose it’ll be more of the same.

Grade: C

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