Back in 2005, ‘Sin City’ hit audiences square between the eyes. There had been comic book films and graphic novels before, but nothing like this - a giddy symphony of stylised images, furious storytelling and total disregard for the traditional concept of good taste. Even now, there’s still something seminal about it, copied and referenced constantly, but never bettered. There was instant talk of a sequel, and nine years later we finally got it, with co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller returning to Basin City for ‘Sin City: A Dame To Kill For’. But can they recapture that same magic and anarchy?
Once again weaving a number of stories together (two of them created by Miller for the film), our major narrative acts as a prequel to the original film, where Dwight (Josh Brolin) comes within orbit again of Ava (Eva Green), a dazzling femme-fatale with a wicked streak. We also watch drifter Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) grapple in a deadly poker game with Senator Roark (Powers Booth), and Nancy (Jessica Alba) coming to grips with the death of Detective Hartigan (Bruce Willis) in the previous film. And add to the mix the most eclectic and bizarre cast of characters, including favourites Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Gail (Rosario Dawson).
Mostly ‘A Dame To Kill For’ isn’t a far step away from the original ‘Sin City’, and this is mostly a good thing. For some reason, these films restrain the excess that usually cripples Rodriguez’s films, and together with Frank Miller (the creator of Sin City), crafts a visually sumptuous film, the totally digital world even more detailed than it was nine years ago.
At the same time, its closeness to the original means it never quite steps out from under its shadow - ‘A Dame To Kill For’ suffers to an extent simply by being the second film. It also doesn’t seem to weave its narratives together as effectively, feeling far more episodic this time round. We don’t move between them with the same sense of fluidity that made the experience so giddying the first time round. Separated from its predecessor though, this is still one hell of a film, emphasising the two things this franchise has going for it - the spectacular visuals (Miller’s gorgeous blacks and whites with inspired dashes of colour) and preposterous characters.
Once again, the cast is totally strapped in for the ride, even if the men in the cast never quite hit their stride. Then again, this may just be because they’re up against Eva Green, who totally knocks it out of the ballpark. No-one chews scenery better than Green, and much like her equally stellar turn on ‘300: Rise of an Empire’, her performance as Ava is totally nuts and mesmerising to watch. There’s probably no better actor suited to be in a Sin City film.
This return to Basin City is a welcome one.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the original or new to the franchise, you can’t help but be entertained and thrilled by ‘A Dame To Kill For’. Sure, it doesn’t have the same snap as the original and realistically doesn’t offer anything significantly different, but this return to Basin City is a welcome one. A nine year wait might have been pushing it, so if Rodriguez and Miller want to keep this going, they might have to act a bit quicker in the future, but so far Sin City has proven it still has legs, and that it’s far more interesting and original than most other franchises these days.
PICTURE & SOUND
Of course ‘A Dame To Kill For’ looks spectacular in high definition, Icon giving the film a gorgeous 1080p 1.85:1 transfer. The film exists in an almost entirely digital environment, and a heavily stylised one at that, so Blu-ray is a great opportunity to take in the textures, details and (most importantly) the colours of the film. The all-important blacks and whites are balanced beautifully, allowing the other splashes of colour to pop and dazzle. The same can be said for the thunderous DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, making the film as aurally exciting as well as visually. Dialogue, sound and music are expertly balanced so that every detail can be enjoyed. Overall, as good a presentation as you could hope for.
‘A Dame To Kill For’ might not have as spectacular a collection of extras as the first film had, but what we’re offered is still pretty good. The centrepiece is a press conference with the cast and crew mixed with behind-the-scenes footage and additional interviews, which runs for around half an hour. It’s the most candid of the features, Miller in particular discussing his relationship with the series and its adaptation, and with Rodriguez as a collaborator. Rodriguez also discusses how the technology has advanced in the last nine years, and how that has affected the film. There’s also a few perfunctory featurettes on the stunts and make-up, a few character profiles and a fifteen-minute green-screen fly through of the film. For fans, it might not be all you were hoping, but it’s all interesting enough.