Movie Review – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Directors: Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller

Stars: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gorden-Levitt, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Jeremy Piven, Christopher Lloyd, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher Meloni, Juno Temple

After ten years Sin City is back with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. It functions as prequel and a sequel, with three of the four stories taking place before stories in the original film. Characters like Marv (Rourke), Nancy (Alba), Dwight (Brolin) return and are joined by Ava (Green), Johnny (Gordon-Levitt) and a few others. As in the first, the film is made up of a number of different stories taking place over the city at different points. We get glimpses into Dwight’s past as well as seeing how Nancy is faring after the events of the first film. 

Now, I saw this at a double screening along with Sin City and it’s fair to say that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is more of the same. Endless narration, over-the-top violence, splattering blood, and seemingly indestructible characters. If you don’t like the first you won’t like this. I thought it was okay, but then I’m not a massive fan of the original either. I like it just fine, and I think they’re both interesting films visually, but I do believe if they were shot normally then they wouldn’t have as much of a following as they do. The stories themselves aren’t really anything special. It’s difficult to get invested in the characters and most of the characters are one-note. The men all talk the same and have similar goals, the women are either manipulative or there just to motivate the men. It’s very stylish but also vacuous and there doesn’t really seem to be a point to it all, perfectly summed up in the Johnny segment that ends abruptly with a bang and you wonder why you even cared in the first place. 

The chronology is also strange. Parts are prequels, parts are sequels. I will say that seeing them back-to-back helped me patch them together but a few things still don’t make sense, mostly because Marv is shoe-horned into every story and you have to try and figure out how they fit in with the timeline from the first film. It just gives you a headache that you don’t need. These films aren’t supposed to be complex, they’re very flashy without much depth so there should have been more care taken to make sure everything fits neatly. 

There are a few characters that have been re-cast, and as I understand it this is mostly due to scheduling issues, which is a shame, but I think this is less of a problem when you don’t watch the films straight after each other. The 3-D is cool and really works well with the style of the film. There were a few neat tricks early on, like one scene where Marv is trying to remember what just happened in his life and he’s the pivot upon which the images revolve around, and it looks great, but for some reason things like this are abandoned. 

While I think the fact that it’s a prequel and a sequel in one is interesting it does lend itself to a couple of problems, one of which is that aforementioned chronology. The other is that sometimes a character will live because they appeared in the first film, and it feels false. For example, there’s one bit where a character gets riddled with bullets but not a head shot because then they would die, but there’s no reason in the film that the people shooting at him wouldn’t shoot him in the head. 

I think, sadly, they waited too long to come out with a sequel for this. While people remember Sin City fondly I think it is slightly overrated. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is shorter, more confusing and the stories just aren’t as interesting. It feels repetitive and aside from the cool visual style there’s not much that’s compelling about it. If you like the first one then you’ll probably like this, and in truth there’s nothing else that’s visually the same so it’s unique in that respect, but it’s not something you must rush out and see, and given how much time has passed between the two films I can’t imagine that a third will be made. 

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