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"Sin City" (2005) vs. "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" (2014): A Comparative Movie Review

The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.


Comparing the "Sin City" Films

We're going to compare the 2005 film Sin City and its 2014 follow-up, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The duo of films, yet again, activates a long-running complaint of mine about the cinema today: 1) I wish movie studios would learn or re-learn when to stop; 2) I wish movie studios would learn when they have told a complete story and move on to something else, rather than try to "milk it" endlessly; 3) Problems occur---that I shall detail shortly---when you try to reinvent the wheel, or try to improve upon perfection in this way.

Let's get to it.

Background Story

Sin City (the first one): brilliant, groundbreaking, innovative, a game-changer, mind-blowing, etc.,----whatever superlative you want to use.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: Well... ugh... they should have quit while they were ahead.

I have the same complaint about the Underworld franchise (the movies about vampires and werewolves) and I have the same complaint about the Matrix franchise. In all three cases, a complete story had been told with the first movie. At that time the movie studios should have stopped and moved on to entirely other things.

The first Sin City told a complete story. There was nothing else to say after Bruce Willis's character, the veteran police detective, shot himself in order to spare the girl from being endlessly pursued by a vengeful Senator Rourke.

When there is nothing left to say, and you say it anyway, the effect can be like a funhouse mirror. But I digress.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is both a prequel and a sequel. The opening scene, in which Marv (Mickey Rourke) prevents some young punks from setting fire to a homeless man. That scene is from Marv's past, remember?

Marv referred to it in the first Sin City. Marv is on a mission to avenge "Goldie," the prostitute that brought sun and light into an otherwise dreary life. Goldie had been assassinated by an expert.

Marv stopped by his "parole officer's" apartment for his "medicine" for his "condition."

Scene Comparison

Marv's parole officer, played by Carla Gugino, discourages his latest bout of adventurism, on the grounds that he was risking being returned to prison, where it was "hell for you." Marv explained that this was something special; it was not the case of "some punks with a gas can trying to torch someone." This was "BIG," he said, remember?

Well, here's my question: Why does Marv look older and fatter in his past than he does in his first Sin City present?

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is also a prequel with respect to the gunslinger, Dwight's story. You will recall that in the first Sin City, Dwight (played by Clive Owen) was presented to us as a "murderer with a new face," meaning that he had had plastic surgery.

In the second Sin City, Dwight is played by Josh Brolin, one of the great actors of his generation, and I mean that.

Question: Why is it that in the Sin City prequel, Josh Brolin supposedly gets plastic surgery, only to look like Josh Brolin with fluffier hair? Its like the Superman/Clark Kent issue with the glasses on/glasses off deal.

Again, the first Sin City had told a complete story with Marv's successful fulfillment of his mission to avenge Goldie. In fact, I think a better stopping place for Marv's story---as opposed to his electrocution---would have been that scene in his jail cell, where he was visited by Goldie's twin sister.

Marv keeps getting her confused with Goldie, on account of his missing his "medicine" for his "condition," and all that. She tells him, "You can call me Goldie." Then they're shown lying together, asleep on his bunk. Stop there, end of story.

But, as you know, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, they would not just let Marv stay dead.

How Eva Green was Treated

I will never forgive Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, for what it did to Eva Green. Eva Green is one of the most mesmerizing screen presences to hit Hollywood in the last decade and a half. I believe cinematic history will mark her as the Betty Davis/Marlene Dietrich of her era (probably closer to Marlene Dietrich). Ms. Green showed that it is really hard to hold back that kind of cinematic charisma, even in a role in which she barely spoke. I'm talking about the Western film, The Salvation.

But through, what I choose to believe, was no fault of her own, she gave a performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Ms. Green played the "dame") that was nothing but thoroughly creepy from beginning to end. I believe that the problem was that the movie did not know what to do with that character.

This happens, sometimes, when a movie's protagonist is featured in a story that is too small for her---in a story in which far more is implied than can ever be delivered upon. The "dame" was too big for the story she was made to occupy because of the compressed time of a movie.

That is to say, we understand that Eva Green's character was assembling wealth and power in order to carry out some kind of grand conspiracy. But the constricted story and her character's aspirations were never a good fit, because her plans fizzled all too quickly when Dwight killed her.

I know that's still a bit fuzzy, so let me put it this way. Take the movie Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker as the African-American, apparently self-taught, urban samurai. Again, my complaint about that film is that the intriguing character that was the "Ghost Dog" was never given a story that was worthy of him. The scrawny tale he was forced to inhabit was too small for him, like a pair of jeans three sizes too short in the legs and too narrow at the waist.

That was Eva Green's "dame" in the second Sin City film; her character was busting the seams of her suit. Her character had nowhere to go because there was no time to get there.

Closing Thoughts

Here's what I mean by that. Take the ShowTime series Penny Dreadful. There is a character---the reanimated corpse of "Lily," along with her partner, Dorian Gray, and the third member of their "great enterprise," they picked up recently---who is working on what appears to be a very similar mission as Eva Green's "dame" in the second Sin City film.

Their motivations seem to be identical. You will recall that at the moment Dwight (Josh Brolin) kills the husband, the "dame" (Eva Green) says a bunch of stuff; but in there is a nugget: she explained that she would never have to make her living on her back again; it was the last time she would ever depend on a man again.

Those of you familiar with Penny Dreadful, know that this is basically Lilly's/Brona's (played by Billie Piper) story. The difference is that the television series gives the character and her story time to grow together in a systematic way, for the contours of character and story meet in a more well-tailored way, if you know what I mean.

For this reason there is never anything creepy about Billie Piper's performance. The story and the character, the character and the story seem more properly made for each other.

Sadly, this is not the case with Eva Green's performance in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Hey, you know something? I didn't recognize Timothy Dalton (one of the James Bonds) as Sir Malcolm Murray! Holy Cow, Batman! His bio says he's seventy!

Where does the time go?

Thank you for reading!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 William Thomas