"SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR" (5 out of 10) – Written and Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez; Starring Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke, Eva Green, Powers Boothe and Rosario Dawson; Rated R for “strong brutal stylized violence throughout, sexual content, nudity, and brief drug use.” Opens in wide release August 22, 102 minutes.
Hi kids. Do you like violence? Wanna see Mickey Rourke pull an eye out Dennis Haysbert's eyelids?
Hi- My name is. What? My name is. Who? My name is. Chicka-chicka- SIN CITY
Rap tributes aside, this film can be summed up with a few simple questions:
1- Did you like 2005's "Sin City"?
2- Did you like Frank Miller's graphic novels of the same name?
If the answer is yes, you will like this film. If the answer is no, your reaction is likely to be somewhere between disgust and utter confusion. In Robert Rodriguez's and Frank Miller's attempts to translate the comics to film, they lose a lot. What works on the page doesn't necessarily always work on the screen, though much of it does. So what you have is an amazing-looking, frenetic movie lacking any sort of thematic or emotional through-line. It's also especially confusing because this movie serves as both a prequel, an interquel, and a sequel all at once, as the stories in this film all happen either before, during, or after the first one.
But if you're looking for hard-boiled, hyper-stylized ultra violence and always go for style over substance, then do I have a movie for you.
The film is entertaining in parts, but being an anthology of stories only somewhat related to one another, the quality varies from scene to scene. The Josh Brolin story where he plays Dwight, who you may remember as being played by Clive Owen in the first film, is the most interesting and complete. Based on the eponymous story, "A Dame to Kill For," Dwight finds himself sucked back into the clutches of his former lover Eva (Ava Green), whose power seems to be her magic boobs that hypnotize men. (Not really. Really.) He teams up with Marv (Mickey Rourke) and the girls of Old Town to right the wrongs, and generally deciding to unleash the beast inside himself.
Less convincing is the story written just for this film about skinny little Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) seeking revenge on Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), who appears as a ghost. The best story features Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as a high roller taking on Sin City's biggest gamblers. It's tense, funny, and engaging, and Leavitt is the most charismatic person in the cast, but it's over all too quickly.
But far more entertaining than the film itself was the Q&A with Robert Rodriguez that followed the premiere at Austin's Paramount Theater, sponsored by the Austin Film Society.
Rodriguez revealed that his process was an attempt to translate Frank Miller's work as directly as possible, while Miller's original intent with the Sin City books was to write something no one would ever be able to make into a movie. This may explain some of the more bumpy pieces of adaptation.
He also revealed that none of the main actors were ever on set together: everything is green-screened and composited. So, the chemistry between Marv and Dwight, the rapport and timing between their jokes? Brolin and Rourke were on set months apart from one another.
In another piece of filmmaking magic, Rodriguez explained how he got Aerosmith's Steven Tyler to participate in the film. During a specific scene where Nancy is dancing at Kadie's Club Pecos, they couldn't license the song Rodriguez had wanted to use. So, in typical Rodriguez style, he wrote something himself. And while getting down to record it, he thought, "This sounds like Steven Tyler."
So, a few phone calls were made, and then Tyler came into the studio and pounded out each line of the song in succession in a single take. Harmonies added-- single take. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.
Steven Tyler gives Robert Rodriguez a hi five for their collaboration on the soundtrack
Rodriguez also revealed that he still wants to do another El Mariachi movie, but his idea had always been to let Antonio Banderas get older and fatter so he looked like an actual mariachi. Unfortunately, Banderas keeps getting sexier and fitter as he gets older, so if they wanted to do it, they'd have to put him in a fat suit or something.
Oh, and you heard it here first -- President Obama wants to be in "Machete in Space." During Obama's jaunt through Austin last month, Rodriguez and Danny Trejo got to talk to the Commander in Chief, who asked how he could make a cameo in the next movie. No word on how President Rathcock would feel about being replaced in the movie.
So, the Q&A? Awesome. The movie itself? Not as much.
The problem with the film is not the technical aspects, because those are as astounding as always. The movie just feels like a jumbled mess-- something that would've worked better as simply individual vignettes instead of trying to make a cohesive film. Because a cohesive film you do not get.
The final thing revealed at the Q&A was Frank Miller already has ideas about what he wants to put in Sin City 3. As excited as you might be about that possibility, Rodriguez might be better to look to make this into a serialized tv show on HBO, or -- given how good "From Dusk Till Dawn" was -- on the El Ray network.
5 out of 10.