Sunday 21 December 2014

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For (16) first review - 'A riot of gushing arteries, severed limbs and wibbly-wobbly lady bits'

Published 21/08/2014 | 09:33

Eva Green in Sin City 2
Jessica Alba in Sin City 2

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller. Starring: Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis

***

In Sin City 2 angry men punch one another in the face while half-naked women coo and arch their eye-brows. As movies about angry men punching one another in the face go, it is exceedingly pretty, if rather bleak – a riot of gushing arteries, severed limbs and wibbly-wobbly lady bits (if you have issues with unclad females draped across the screen just for the heck of it, prepare to do a LOT of eye-rolling).

There's a certain high mindedness behind the ultra-violence. As with the first Sin City from 2005, Robert Rodriguez ("co-directing" with graphic novelist Frank Miller, author of the Sin City comic books) is very consciously offering homage to the noir films of the 30s and 40s. And yet, for all his love of the form, he demonstrates a tin ear for the qualities separating true noir from mere pulp: beneath the cliches, the great exemplars of the genre had serious things to say about the human condition, the ways in which good people can end up in bad places.

Sin City 2 in contrast is mostly concerned with shooting, stripping and random eye-gouging. Three stories are loosely interwoven. Josh Brolin's private detective McCarthy (played by Clive Owen in the original Sin City) is seduced, then betrayed by Ava (Eva Green), a milky skinned demon-babe whose chief pastime is lounging around in varying degrees of undress. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a cocky ne'er do well skating by on charm and supernatural poker skills. And, in the only explicit continuation from its predecessor, erotic dancer Nancy (Jessica Alba) ropes protean lunk Marv (Mickey Rourke) into her plan to extract revenge on brutal city boss Roark.

If that doesn't sound like much plot, it's because Rodriguez and Millar really can't be troubled slowing down long enough to take an interest in where their characters are headed. Instead, they gorge the screen with stylized mayhem and grubby sex  (it's weird how they seem as intent on making the latter feel icky and debased and as they are in glorifying the former).

Quite why so many a-listers would queue up for a project exuding great wafts of hokiness is hard to say  – but it's lucky for Rodriguez and Millar they did. With a below average cast, Sin City 2 might have been a proper clunker. As it is, you wince slightly as Brolin delivers lines like "Never lose control. Never let the monster out." and Alba tries to rise above her one-dimensional stripper by leaning so deeply into the part you can almost hear her sinews stretch.

The first Sin City was praised for bringing the crack and pop of graphic novels to cinema. With their black and white panoramas and occasional spatters of colour, both movies certainly look like comic books. However, that isn't exactly the same as capturing the energy of the medium – what's missing above all, is the sense of limitless possibility the best comics evoke. In Sin City it rains constantly and the bad guy usually wins. You can dress it up in all sorts of ways but that's a grim lesson and it hangs around the film's neck like a concrete albatross.

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