Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [2014]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (2 Stars w. Expl.)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

To understand Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [2014] (screenplay and codirected by Frank Miller [IMDb] along with Robert Rodriguez based on Frank Miller's [IMDb] "Sin City" graphic novels) one has to, strangely enough, link it with another unfortunately "overdone" sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire [2014] associated with Frank Miller's [IMDb] work:

Unquestionably technically superior to the graphic novel inspired Sin City [2005] original, the current film suffers from the same badly chosen over-the-top violent excesses of above-mentioned sequel to the 300 series' 2006 original.   And it's a shame, because the needlessly brutal and ultimately off-putting violence of the film obscures the technical triumphs of the film -- WATCHING THE FILM, ONE FEELS LIKE ONE IS TRANSPORTED INTO THE LARGELY BLACK-AND-WHITE WORLD (color present ONLY SPARINGLY and OBVIOUSLY to ENHANCE THE IMPACT OF THE STORY) of the comic book (er, graphic novel).  If only the similar wisdom was used in the employment of violence in the story as well!

As I've written several times in this blog, I myself do not mind the use of graphic imagery -- violent or sexual -- as long as such imagery does serve the story (For an example, see my review of The Wolf of Wall Street [2013]).

I do think that viewers see more of actress Eva Green (who plays Ava, the film's "Dame to Kill for") than they really need to.  However, I'D BE WILLING TO GIVE THIS A PASS, as we see what we see of her IN HIGHLY STYLIZED, HIGH-CONTRAST B&W AND _WITH THE POINT_ OF UNDERLINING WHO SHE PLAYS IN THE STORY: A REALLY, REALLY DANGEROUS SULTRY-AS-CAN-BE "FEMME FATALE" who commands by her sexuality ANY SITUATION that she finds herself in.  For a PG (and "far more clothed") version of the same Archetype, consider Milla Jovovich's portrayal of the Milady De Winter character in the most recent cinematic incarnation of The Three Musketeers [2011], a character who had her own mind / agenda and honestly NO ONE (or, more to the point, NO MAN) could trust ;-).  Then Cameron Diaz plays a similar character in The Counselor [2013] with utterly _perfectly manicured_ STAINLESS STEEL COLORED NAILS and a LONG, LONG "leopard spot" TATTOO beginning at her heck and meandering down, spot by spot, back-and-forth, across her back, all the way to her a...  I'd put Eva Green's portrayal of Ava in this film, and even of her portrayal of the fierce, "out for revenge" Greek "turn coat" leader of the Persian fleet Artemesia in 300: Rise of an Empire [2014] in the same league.  We're talking about Archetypes here and I do think that Ms Green plays the Archetype of the fiercely independent woman and thus utterly uncontrollable by men very, very well.  Call the Archetype a female patriot, a "Malcolm X" with a "V" ;-) : "by any means necessary."  And yes, like the Archetype personified by the historical Malcolm X such a female version would scare the daylights out of a lot of people.

That said, the portrayal of the rest of the women and then of the violence in the film is far less justified: Okay, Ava's character is perhaps "special" and perhaps the organizing principle around which the rest of the story was built.  BUT DOES EVERY WOMAN in the admittedly FALLEN CITY portrayed HAVE TO BE A VICTIM OR A PROSTITUTE (and sometimes both)?  Similarly, with the violence.  Okay, one of the characters in the first film, Manute (played by Dennis Haysbert), had a "glass eye."  Was it really necessary (SPOILER ALERT) to see in IN THIS FILM, IN ABSOLUTE GRAPHIC DETAIL, HOW HE CAME TO LOSE SAID EYE?

It's the stupid excess of the violence in this sequel that will make this film unwatchable to most readers of this blog (and most viewers in general).  Yes, I understand that "conventional wisdom" DICTATES that a sequel MUST INCREASE that which makes the first film memorable and PART of what made the first film memorable was its visceral portrayal of "life in a corrupt/fallen city."  But I wish that this sequel had kept to the level of violence of the first film and simply chose to highlight the new film's FAR IMPROVED VISUAL TECHNIQUE.

If not for the film's stupidly excessive over-the-top violence, this film could have been a contender for such technical awards as best editing, best cinematography, even (perhaps) best animated film.   The film could have been used as an example of a fascinating blurring in recent years of the boundary between animated and live-acted films.  Now such a discussion could be done only with a large number of the discussion's participants holding their noses.

So bottom-line, the current film offers film-makers much to consider in terms of visual / story-telling technique.  I just wish the film didn't sink into pointless, truly gratuitous violence.  A far more compelling product could have resulted here if only the film's makers had not chosen to dial up the violence "to eleven."

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