Here’s how my fourteen-year-old self would express his thoughts on the same film: “WOW. Eva Green is naked. Did I mention she has no clothes?”
Neither description gets it wrong. “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is the most heavily stylized movie of the year, maybe the century so far. Rodrigues and co-director Frank Miller (the comic book legend who created the original “Sin City” series in print) have created a dark vision of a shadowland known as Sin City, a corrupt place where crime is a way of life for both citizens and all femmes are fatale.
Four stories interweave. The thread that ties them together is Marv (played by noted Putin booster Mickey Rourke), a massive hulk of a man who aids Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) in his efforts to free his former flame Ava Lord (Eva Green) from her abusive husband. He also helps stripper Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) settle an old score with a corrupt senator (Powers Booth), the same man who savagely beat gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to teach him a lesson about power.
“Sin City” A Dame to Kill For” feels like it was made by someone with an eye for the aesthetics of noir but the interests of a 14-year-old boy. It’s an exercise in style over substance that will make your corneas tingle, tickle your prurient side and provide an experience that may be memorable (especially if you are a fourteen year boy) but not particularly rewarding.
These unendingly grim crime stories aren’t so much hard-boiled as they are over-baked. Rodrigues and Miller’s outlook is as bleak as the stark black-and-white palette they use to illustrate the movie. “Death is just like life in Sin City,” they say, hammering the point home that the only relief from the ennui many of these characters live with is a bullet to the head. The characters seem to welcome it. “He’ll eat you alive,” a bartender tells Johnny about the senator. “I’m a tough chew,” he replies, playing chicken with his life.
The directors try to distract from the cynical goings on with hyper-German Expressionist cinematography and the abovementioned Ms. Green’s wardrobe, or lack thereof, but no matter how much style or skin are exposed, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” remains a slickly styled exercise in pointlessness.