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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) movie poster Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Theatrical Release: August 22, 2014 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller / Writer: Frank Miller (graphic novels & screenplay)

Cast: Mickey Rourke (Marv), Jessica Alba (Nancy Callahan), Josh Brolin (Dwight McCarthy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Johnny), Rosario Dawson (Gail), Bruce Willis (John Hartigan), Eva Green (Ava Lord), Powers Boothe (Senator Roark), Dennis Haysbert (Manute), Ray Liotta (Joey), Christopher Meloni (Lt. Mort), Jeremy Piven (Bob), Christopher Lloyd (Dr. Kroenig), Jaime King (Goldie, Wendy), Juno Temple (Sally), Stacy Keach (Alarich Wallenquist), Marton Csokas (Damien Lord), Jude Ciccolella (Lt. Liebowitz), Jamie Chung (Miho), Julia Garner (Marcie), Lady Gaga (Bertha), Alexa Vegas (Gilda), Patricia Vonne (Dallas)

Buy Sin City: A Dame to Kill For from Amazon.com: Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack DVD Instant Video

The original Sin City was something of a minor cultural event. There had been nothing quite like the gritty, stylish, predominantly black and white 2005 adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels.
Primary director Robert Rodriguez hadn't yet evolved into a niche filmmaker. Guest director Quentin Tarantino was still something of a wild card, if not exactly a novelty. And author/co-director Miller was someone whose distinctive voice had scarcely been heard on film before.

Critically acclaimed and commercially profitable (it grossed nearly $160 million worldwide on a $40 M budget), Sin City quickly assumed a place in the Internet Movie Database's list of the all-time top 250 films, soaring as high as 57th on the first anniversary of its release. Talk of a sequel was almost instantaneous, with Rodriguez claiming work had begun all the way back in May 2005. Box Office Mojo created an entry for this sequel by fall of that year, assigning it a summer 2006 release date. Though the date disappeared, the entry did not, standing as "TBD" for years, until May 2012 when an October 2013 debut was set. It would miss that target by nearly a year and when Sin City: A Dame to Kill For finally materialized in August 2014, it would do so to poor reviews.

Despite a nearly 3,000-theater count not far from its predecessor's, A Dame to Kill For could only manage an 8th place opening and would barely double its paltry first weekend gross in the end. It would finish with just under $14 million domestically, a far cry from the original's $74 M North American gross and from the sequel's $65 M budget. It easily goes down as one of 2014's biggest bombs. If there had been a window for a Sin City sequel to succeed, clearly it closed long before this one was completed.

Marv (Mickey Rourke) takes a bullet to a shoulder, which only makes him angry. The full-color Marcie (Julia Garner) accompanies Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to his backroom poker game.

Taking its subtitle from Miller's second series of Sin City comics published from 1993 to 1994, A Dame to Kill is at least partially set four years after the original film. Around ten characters are back, four of whom have been recast. We open in what is technically named Basin City but never called by anything other than the last three syllables. Psychopathic loner Marv (Mickey Rourke) tries to remember how he got here, here being the place where four frat boys who were trying to set a hobo on fire have just been killed.

Marv takes something of a backseat this time, as three distinct stories play out with mild overlap. The first involves Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a confident young high roller who comes to town claiming he never loses. His confidence isn't misplaced as he clears out slot machines and makes his way to a back room, where he embarrasses Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a high-stakes poker game. Roark doesn't take losing kindly. He tracks down Johnny and gives him something to remember him by.

We then turn our attentions to Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), a hard, sleazy, ex-alcoholic photographer who is invited to reconnect with the irresistible temptress Ava Lord (Eva Green). Begging him for an apology, she stirs passion in him, leading him right into the trap she's set. As a result, fugitive Dwight flees to neighbor city Old Town, a place protected by prostitutes, including Dwight's old friend Gail (Rosario Dawson), who treats his wounds.

The third storyline involves Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba), a dancer who has taken to drinking as she continues to mourn the death of her protector, cop John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), whom she sees as a concerned ghost-type. Nancy teams up with Marv to get justice for Hartigan from the only person who can give it.

Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin) finds himself between the blue-coated Ava Lord (Eva Green) and her formidable bodyguard Manute (Dennis Haysbert).

Like its predecessor, A Dame to Kill For is distinguished by its look, a stylish, edgy black and white universe with splashes of color achieved by a heavy use of green screen and digital sets. The visuals are not quite the novelty they were nine years ago, as other films have since opted for similarly stylized appearance,
from the 300 movies adapted from Miller's graphic novels to Miller's own 2008 misfire The Spirit (which, it must be pointed out, earned nearly 1.5 times what this sequel did). Nonetheless, the artificial design of extremes remains striking and potent. It somehow suits this pitch black material.

Like the first movie, this sequel adopts the tone of classic film noir, but without the moderation and coded terms of your Grandpa's childhood. To different degrees, these characters are all degenerate lowlifes: murderers, whores, swindlers, dirty politicians, femme fatales. They voice their inner feelings in monologue that contrasts silky turns of phrase with gravely tones. There is much more than a hint and threat of violence in this cesspool. The film is full of slit throats, decapitations, torn and bulging eyeballs. It's all stylized and mostly unrealistic, but still off-putting and cringe-inducing. It's like Dick Tracy placed in a blender with suffering, painkillers, a strip club, and a couple of bottles of bourbon. It's dark, it's nasty, and yet, it's also somehow kind of poetic and graceful.

Sure, such dark, graphic content will not be to everyone's taste. I would hesitate to claim that I liked this movie. The over-the-top content certainly grows tiresome. This series does more to desensitize than most films. Nonetheless, there's something you have to respect about its insane vision and the compelling characters and plots it develops.

The troubled Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) is haunted by John Hartigan (Bruce Willis), the cop who killed himself to protect her. Picking up her second Robert Rodriguez film credit, Lady Gaga plays a roadside diner waitress who gives Johnny the only dollar he needs to get back at Senator Roark.

Dame suffers from not being fresh and original, as well as for being far from timely. Sequels that arrive too quickly seem hasty and rushed.
But after a while, it becomes "Why bother?" That certainly seems to be the public's reaction to this film. It was mirrored in the tepid response from critics, many of whom championed the first one. The big problem is not that Rodriguez and Miller (who get no contribution from Tarantino this time) can't recreate the look and tone of the original. It's that they can and do, making this more of the same.

Critics bemoan "more of the same", something they've been taking Rodriguez to task for as he continues to alternate between gimmicky 3D family films and deliberately trashy exploitation action. Though the public usually eats up seconds, the passing of nearly a decade dulls almost all kinds of passion and excitement. If Dame came first exactly as is and the first Sin City came nine years later, I'm convinced you could swap the reviews and the general sentiments would still apply. What that probably means more than anything is that Sin City isn't as good as many claim and A Dame to Kill For isn't as bad as some would have you believe.

Interestingly, Powers Boothe, an actor you probably don't recognize from anything outside this franchise, gets to do more acting than most of the younger, more famous people billed above him in the cast. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that this movie includes a strange 20th anniversary Angels in the Outfield reunion in Gordon-Levitt's scene with Christopher Lloyd. This is a world where battered men are fixed up far from hospitals.

Dame's reception was about as disastrous as anyone could have imagined considering the returning talent, nine years' worth of inflation, and the addition of 3D and the premium prices it fetches. When you adjust for all that, you discover that the sequel sold barely a tenth as many tickets as its predecessor did. It also filled far fewer seats than anything else released to as many theaters in 2014.

Its theatrical release already a faded memory, A Dame to Kill For recently hit home video from The Weinstein Company and partner Anchor Bay Entertainment in a single-disc DVD and the three-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack reviewed here.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 18, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Style is right up there with substance in Sin City, so I'm glad to report that the movie boasts terrific picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 picture sets a gold standard for black and white with splashes of color. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is every bit as potent, dispensing inner monologues, dialogue, music, and sound FX with the utmost clarity, consistency, and impact. It's a high-def presentation many will admire and 3D enthusiasts should appreciate the use of showy 3D effects.

Call him Al: It's an Angels in the Outfield reunion as Christopher Lloyd mends Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the high-speed green screen version of the film. Jessica Alba's reprisal of Nancy Callahan is the subject of this split-screen showing the raw green screen footage, final film, and a promotional interview.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

While the Blu-ray 3D devotes all of its space to presenting the movie in 3D, the standard Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with a high-speed, all green screen version of the movie that runs 16 minutes and 28 seconds.
The scored, full-color visuals demonstrate how much the practically animated movie relies on post-production visual effects. You see actors walking on long treadmills, gripping a detached steering wheel, and having reality emphasized by a paucity of props. There is something mesmerizing about watching the movie this way. If you're hoping it will give you a better view of the film's plentiful nudity (Eva Green spends much of the movie in some state of undress), your hopes are misplaced, as nudity is either blurred, cut, or revealed to be among the film's CGI work.

Next up are four Character Profiles shorts, which collect comments from the actors and thoughtful praise from their co-stars and collaborators. The pieces are as follow: "Eva Green Is The Dame to Kill For" (4:08), "Jessica Alba Is Nancy" (3:52), "Josh Brolin Is Dwight" (3:26), and "Joseph Gordon-Levitt Is Johnny" (2:12).

Stacy Keach gets a monstrous make-up makeover to play Alarich Wallenquist. Old Town hookers are the craziest on the Sin City: A Dame to Kill For main menu.

"Makeup Effects of Sin City with Greg Nicotero" (6:40) is an interview that does more telling than showing, but it does complement Nicotero's remarks with some glimpses of actors being made up (often grotesquely) and some on-set effects.

"Stunts of Sin City with Jeff Dashnaw" (5:38) takes a similar approach to its topic,
with stunt coordinator Dashnaw explaining how he reluctantly was hired as Mickey Rourke's stunt double on the first movie. More behind-the-scenes looks are served up, this time with a focus on stunts.

Finally, the disc includes a theatrical trailer for the original Sin City (2:10). Why that one, which has a Blu-ray plug added to its end, I don't know. But it's the only trailer of any kind found on this set.

The DVD, the same one available on its own, gladly includes all of the same bonus features as the Blu-ray.

The animated menu sets a montage of clips to a jazzy score excerpt. The Blu-rays neither resume unfinished playback nor let you set bookmarks, exhibiting a shortcoming that has always plagued Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-rays.

Joined by a Digital HD UltraViolet code whose back advertises Miller's Sin City books, the silver DVD and full-color Blu-rays share a standard-sized blue keepcase (the Blu-rays are stacked), which is topped by a nicely-textured slipcover.

Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) dances at Kadie's, an establishment like most of the movie created in post-production.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though unloved by critics and avoided by moviegoers like the plague, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is more or less on the same order of its revered predecessor. Like the original, this sequel dabbles in extremes of violence, style, and tone. It's not the never-before-seen experience the first one was nine years ago, but it's also tough to fault for anything other than its over-the-top nature. The acting, directing, writing and photography all have some worth. What it comes down to, then, is whether or not you can get onboard with the bleak, brutal story.

Though not the fully-loaded edition some may crave, this versatile Blu-ray 3D combo pack does deliver a fantastic feature presentation and a good assortment of extras at a reasonable price for all the formats it includes.

Buy Sin City: A Dame to Kill For from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Robert Rodriguez: Sin City RoadRacers The Faculty Four Rooms | Written and Directed by Frank Miller: The Spirit
Eva Green: 300: Rise of an Empire Dark Shadows Camelot: The Complete Series | Christopher Lloyd: Piranha
Josh Brolin: Gangster Squad Men in Black 3 Labor Day No Country for Old Men | Bruce Willis: Surrogates A Good Day to Die Hard
Jessica Alba: Fantastic Four | Rosario Dawson: 25th Hour & He Got Game Parts Per Billion Men in Black II | Stacy Keach: Nebraska
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Looper Premium Rush 10 Things I Hate About You | Powers Boothe: Red Dawn (1984) Nixon Tombstone

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Reviewed December 19, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2014 Dimension Films, Aldamisa Entertainment, Troublemaker Studios, Demarest Films, AR Films, Miramax, Solipsista,
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.