Friday, August 29, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 25

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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review

'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' disappoints and drags with gross violence and sexism




Where is it playing?: Movie Lompoc, Parks Plaza

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $2.00 (Jessica)

What's it worth?: $3.00 (Adriana)

User Rating: 7.50 (1 Votes)

Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller reunite to bring more of Miller’s Sin City graphic novels to the big screen. The film’s plot comes largely from the second book of the series (A Dame to Kill For) as well as the short story “Just Another Saturday Night” from the graphic story collection Booze, Broads, & Bullets. Two new original plots lines—“The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance”—were created exclusively for the film (102 min.)

Editor’s Note: This week’s Split Screen was conducted by New Times Arts Editor Jessica Peña and her minion, Adriana Catanzarite.


Jessica: It’s been nine years since Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s first Sin City lit up theaters with its gritty and innovative black-and-white noir about sex, crime, and Jessica Alba’s leather-bodiced bod. I was 15 back then, and I distinctly remember thinking that I’d never seen anything like that movie before. The CG, high-contrast visuals were slick, and the stories (based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name) had just the right amount of over-the-top pulp action and seductive melodrama. I remember that movie being cool, not unlike a 15-year-old me, who rocked both braces and glasses. I don’t know what happened in those nine years, but I got even cooler, and the Sin City sequel went the opposite direction. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For picks up four years after the original, which you wouldn’t know because the film only haphazardly fills in any of the details regarding its predecessor. Some of the same characters are back, whether you liked, disliked, or cared about them in the first place. Mickey Rourke’s shovel-faced brute, Marv, returns as the noble protector of Jessica Alba’s stripper in distress, Nancy; and Powers Boothe continues to reign over the dregs of Sin City as the menacing Sen. Roark. And then, you know, there are some new characters. There’s Johnny, a fresh-faced gambler played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ava Lord (Eva Green), an ultra-sultry femme fatale whose skills at manipulation are only outdone by her almost ubiquitous lack of clothing. Together, these louts and loose women bungle their way through four vignettes that are bound together by shallow dialogue, obscene violence, and gross misogyny. All in all, it’s great background noise to take a nap to.

Adriana: Speak for yourself! I was way too traumatized by the aforementioned obscene violence and gross misogyny. I mean, I like gore as much as the next person, preferably when it’s of the Quentin Tarantino variety, which ignores all logic and physics when it comes to blood spatter. But this was just a little too much for me. There’s a scene in which gambling man Johnny finds himself sandwiched between two of Roark’s goons and gets all of the fingers on his hand broken by a pair of pliers (Full disclosure: I hid behind my notebook and plugged my ears while this was happening). In another scene, Marv is in a no-holds-barred wrestling match with Ava Lord’s bodyguard Manute, played by the All-State Insurance guy Dennis Haysbert. Marv then proceeds to gouge out Manute’s eye with only his thumb, because why not? And don’t even get me started on all of the women characters in this movie. No, it’s too late. Here I go. While the men in this movie range from beefy goons like Marv to powerful political figures such as Roark to random private detectives like Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), all of the females are either strippers, prostitutes, strippers/prostitutes, or wives of millionaires who, for some reason, can never find their clothes. It’s clear from the get-go the purpose of the women in Sin City: They’re there to be ogled, admired, or used as “good-luck charms.” And though Alba’s character, Nancy, briefly manages finds a reprieve from this role when she decides to take revenge on Sen. Roark, any power she gained from something other than her body or her looks is immediately stamped out when Marv, who’s supposed to act as a kind of father figure, glances over her leather-clad form and growls, “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you look hot.” Ugh. Give me a break.

Jessica: A break, indeed. This movie just wouldn’t end! Because beyond the blunt sexism and thoughtless violence, this movie is just so, so boring. Not even Eva Green’s ever-present boobs can throw a jolt into this lifeless slog of a movie. I didn’t expect character depth from a franchise that celebrates cheap pulp, but at least give us some explanations that generate empathy. All I can say is that, at the very least, the visuals still look as cool as they did in the original, and are boosted by the 3-D factor. But all that is lost, because any daring shot of gutsy action is undercut by the interminable narration. I know it’s noir, I get it, but there needs to be a balance between the action and the voice-over, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For never finds that balance. It’s just lots of boobs and lots of blood. 

Adriana: The narration was what was really distracting for me, especially when it’s Mickey Rourke’s garbled voice. The problem with this movie is that it just tries so damn hard to bring back the campy, endearing qualities of the original film noir. But instead of great characters and dialogue, all we get is grizzled actors growling, “I can’t let the monster out,” or “I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.” Well I wasn’t born last night either, and it’s going to take a lot more than pretty visuals and an endless parade of female anatomy and senseless violence to win me over. And Sin City: A Dame to Kill For  didn’t deliver.


Jessica Peña always has clothes on, even in the shower. Contact her and Adriana Catanzarite at