Sin City: A Dame To Kill For ***
Dir: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller
Starring: Eva Green, Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Jeremy Piven, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Christopher Lloyd
When the first Sin City came out in 2005 it was not only the most faithful adaptation of a comic book/graphic novel till that point (and perhaps even up to now) – remaining not only true to the original stories but also managing, astonishingly, to capture the look and feel of the comics themselves – but it was also an exhilarating thrill ride. With its hard-boiled detective and noir-influenced storylines, innovative CGI and use of the green screen, its stark black-and-white imagery, and over-the-top stylised violence, the movie was unlike anything one had seen before. A very attractive cast was the icing on the cake. It was original, exciting cinema.
Nine years on, some of the thrill is gone. Not that co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, adapting Miller’s Sin City graphic novels, have lost their mojo. Taken in isolation, A Dame To Kill For, is also stirring stuff. But there’s almost a touch of the derivative rather than the innovative about it (though not necessarily due to any fault of its own, because the movie is staying true to its roots). The sequel carries over the first film’s overlapping, multiple storylines narrative style, featuring many of the same characters that graced the first movie. And, visually, there’s not that much that differentiates it not only from the first movie (except for a more liberal – but intelligent – use of colour) with the impact being further lessened by the many more comic-book based extravaganzas that have used green screen CGI effects that have graced our screens in the interval between the two Sin City movies. More worryingly, Miller’s unremitting misogyny and fetishism (anybody familiar with his comic book work should recognise his standard tropes by now) is more jarring now than ever.
That being said, I still enjoyed the movie. Rodriguez and Miller are having fun as is the cast, which commits fully to the sexy stylisation of the movie. That combination of fun and commitment is infectious with no one being more effective than the stunning and gloriously sexy Eva Green (appearing in her second Frank Miller adaptation of the year after 300: Rise Of An Empire, where she stole the movie) who absolutely owns her part as well as the movie. Even in the nude (and she’s plenty nude in this film), the actress is fearless and truly a dame to kill for. Also bringing the sexy is Jessica Alba, reprising her role of Nancy, the exotic dancer with a heart of gold and a damaged psyche. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke, and Powers Boothe are also enjoyable though I preferred Clive Owen as the original Dwight McCarthy than the recast Josh Brolin. Jamie Chung is also a poorer substitute for Devon Aoki in the original.
Fans of the original should like this one.
Cut to chase: Not as thrilling as the original but still exciting enough.
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Under The Skin ***
Dir: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams
Jonathan Glazer’s adaptation of Michael Glazer’s science-fiction novel is almost guaranteed to polarise audiences. The majority will probably find it baffling, plodding, and deliberately obtuse. Others (like me) will find it an intriguing and, ultimately, affecting surreal mood piece about an alien seductress (Scarlett Johansson) sent to Earth to lure unsuspecting Earth males (to a fate which is never truly revealed) but who finds herself becoming more human along the way. This is Species by way of David Lynch.
Parts of the movie are shot almost docudrama style. Reportedly, Glazer used hidden cameras to film Laura’s (Johansson) encounters with unsuspecting young men on the streets of Scotland and there is a certain authenticity to those scenes. The stark, chilling cinematography is also stunning. And holding centre stage is Scarlett Johansson in her most vulnerable, unvarnished and exposed (both figuratively and literally) performance to date. As Laura’s humanity and new emotions start to surface, Johansson manages to convey her confusion with the most fleeting of expressions despite a deliberately maintained emotionless facade. It’s a brave performance in every way.
Cut to chase: Not for all tastes but certainly an intriguing, ultimately moving watch.