The second film based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has been getting a lot of bad press—and I can’t say that it is undue. Its only truly redeeming quality that impressed me was its use of 3D (which I’m rarely onboard with).
I admit: Sin City (the original) passed by me and I barely noticed. It wasn’t until I heard that Lady Gaga would be making an appearance in a scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For that I gave it a second thought. I adore Lady Gaga, so it was time to see what Frank Miller’s Sin City was all about. Looking at the rest of the cast list, it seemed to have lots of potential.
Similar to the first Sin City flick, A Dame to Kill For is based on multiple stories from Frank Miller’s graphic novels, with the addition of two original stories written for the film: “The Long Bad Night,” which is split into two parts and follows a son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) trying to prove he can beat his father at his own game; and “Nancy’s Last Dance,” which follows Nancy’s (Jessica Alba) downward spiral after the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who had saved her life when she was a little girl and who became the love of her life. The stories follow various seedy and promiscuous characters who are trying to etch out a life in a city full of crime and darkness.
Unlike the first flick, A Dame to Kill For does not offer the audience a definitive (or at least overly obvious) signal that we’ve seen the end of one story and we’re onto the next. If you went into the film not knowing that some stories are prequels and others are sequels to those included in the first film, it could get a little confusing—so just remember that not everything is taking place in the present. While it may not be necessary to watch the first film to understand everything in A Dame to Kill For, it does offer some beneficial context.
But back to this being a 3D film… I’m not always happy with paying the extra cash, wearing the glasses and finding that only one or two scenes really use the feature to full effect. But from the opening scene, with Marv (Mickey Rourke) coming to consciousness in the middle of a car crash on the outskirts of town, this flick used the feature to its full advantage. The 3D effects offered depth to the falling snow (which wasn’t predictably, and cheese-ily, flying at you); in another scene, cigarette smoke encircled the characters, trailing across the screen’s frame. The feature opened up many more possibilities for a film that’s mostly in black and white, directing the audience’s attention with depth rather than just splashes of colour (an effect reminiscent of the graphic novel, which was also maintained here).
Overall, there were no stand-out performances, which I suppose lends more focus to their stories and how their environment shapes their individual plotlines. But this leaves things a little dull at points. Lady Gaga appeared momentarily, which makes me wonder if it was perhaps a marketing ploy. (If so, I guess it worked; it got me there.)
I liked this film, but I wouldn’t defend it with much vigour. In the end, I left the theatre feeling flat-lined. I wasn’t engaged, and that’s a pretty big negative for any film.