Violence, lust, murder, and gambling. It’s still Sin City.
Sin City’s mosaic storytelling lacks the same tug in Dame to Kill For, loosening the allure of this voraciously adult, four chapter chronicle. The city is still drenched with deviancy and remains visually expressive. And, despite re-castings after seven years, these are still screen actors projected at mammoth scope in a grimy stage show.
By default, such a follow-up is not as flamboyant. 300 had much the same problem. Sin City’s aesthetic progressed into The Spirit, and now this with a familiar mixture of cautious color selection and drop shadows. Such a follow-up can no longer survive on looks alone no matter how lurid the camera wants to treat a seductively nude Eva Green.
Twists are still here; citizens keep their questionable histories; violence remains tantalizing; dialog is still lyrical. Some things don’t change. But then Sin City wanders and revisits, spinning through multiple arcs in multiple time frames with Mickey Rourke’s thick-jawed Marv in on all of them. Marv is the ground, something a Dame to Kill For can use as needed while the script consistently calls on necessary muscle.
Frank Miller writes and shares in direction, maintaining his fearsome quota for lavish bloodshed and persuasive gunplay. Few films treat the bullet with such a glamorous end game. If anyone wins, it’s Sin City’s morticians. Bodies pile on top of bodies in winding, even long winded emotional ploys. Two villains – one a power mad senator Roark (Powers Boothe) the other an expert seductress Ava (Green) – never intersect directly even if their own devilishness bounces between one another as they enact their ploys on the underground cesspool.
Few films treat the bullet with such a glamorous end game.
A Dame to Kill For is loaded, probably too much so given a thinner runtime and less room to adapt personalities to this split narrative. Scripting work leans on the first as an understandable expectation, leaving Jessica Alba’s Nancy and her hip thrusting flirtations by their lonesome until Dame to Kill For needs a punchier (and feminine) mean streak to close with.
Before Nancy, this film is optical stimuli, set up for cinematic showiness which never ceases to impress even if the underlying themes begin to fray. Often, Dame to Kill For is inseparable from its boxed-in visual mentality which enjoys closing in rooms tighter as characters become ensnared by their own mistakes. Only the city’s exteriors offer some space for air, but as with this movie, Sin City is not a place necessarily worth ever revisiting.
Few movies are better fit to testing the limits of Blu-ray’s contrast than Sin City, a reference level workout of highs, lows, and all of the in-between gray scale. Dame to Kill For is an equal. Very specific uses of black crush are essential, yet still careful in creating layers down into the image’s darkest recesses. Use of light imagines shadows with such care, the potential for banding is tremendous. Encoding keeps the disc free of any such errors.
Robert Rodriguez’s cinematography keeps hard lines and careful focus in view. Few shots ever dwindle in sharpness. Close-ups are monstrously stunning, part of that being the lighting, the other part being caution with the lens. Each edit brings about another example of how enriching this format’s resolution can be in aiding such source material. Pores, scars, make-up; nothing is lost. With range, Dame to Kill For still won’t let go.
Color application is as precise as the shadows, and used sparingly for effect. Each hue is a dazzler with elegant saturation bringing about reds, blues, and greens to impressively stimulating levels. There are even examples of candy coated flesh tones to take away – absolute beauty in motion.
More than anything, this Sin City looks clean. Not in the overtly digital sense, rather in a way which keeps the film locked to the sense of being a graphic novel. Lines are as distinct as they would be printed on paper. They’re equally textured. Layers of invisible green screen and added CG elements keep noise at bay. Nothing intrudes.
In addition, there is massive 3D which is nearly imperative for viewing were it not for some incidental cross talk. Sin City’s light/dark combo causes precision issues on certain backgrounds. The bricks of Roark’s backroom poker joint are a definite bother. Some of the more expansive aerial views of the city are likewise problematic. Of course, this can be display dependent.
Everything else – everything – is marvelous. Images are not only arresting in 2D, they’re composed for enormous stereoscopic potential. Shot for 3D rather than post-converted, images spill over the screen with little reliance on tricks (although a number of false wide aspect ratio shots are pleasing as items break the plane). Between the lush fish eye perspective to action scenarios and remarkable harmony between ambient effects such as snow and the characters behind them, Dame to Kill For protrudes almost in excess. That’s why it works so well.
Punches, kicks, guns – they all hit like concrete. DTS-HD mastering brings on a torrent of LFE use, pursuing aggression and finding it as needed. Dame to Kill For is barely subtle, nor should it be. All of the added oomph creates characters who are beefier than they already appear, roughhousing for blood and each jolt is felt. Muscle cars roar into the low-end with satisfying hums.
Rodriguez/Miller’s film is fond of slow motion tricks too, allowing shattered glass to travel with lifelike effect, assuming one could crack windows at partial speed. Staging is broad, working between speakers frequently. Surround channels are fully spread, and dialog will – on occasion – break from the center. It’s a lot of fun to listen to.
Bonuses are not so fun. Watching the movie condensed into speed-watching form on all green-screened sets is interesting. However, at only 16-minutes, picking up on peculiarities is almost impossible, making this a novelty. A series of character profiles leave out a number of inhabitants as the interviews discuss characters, their roles, and purpose.
Two seven-ish minute shorts detail make-up and stunts which are pleasingly detailed, if not enough so to satisfy which sums up this lean bonus department well.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.