Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For | 2014 | Film Review | SHELF HEROES

★★★☆☆ 

Robert Rodriguez’s stylish noir, based on Frank Miller’s series of graphic novels, returns for round two after a nine year hiatus. Nine years in which fevered excitement for a sequel has dissipated into something closer to curiosity tinged with mild suspicion. In 2005 Sin City felt like a vibrant new adventure, exploring the edges of sanity and the medium in an unseen digital style; sure it was cold and at times felt like a video game cutscene, but this fresh, bold approach to a comic adaptation resonated with so much crunching violence and shimmering style it still remains a high point in the sub-genre. The question is: can Rodriguez and Miller find something equally impressive this time around?

I love the pulp detective novels of Raymond Chandler. From his short stories to novels I’ve read everything cover to cover; the thing is, all hard-boiled detective fiction is kind of the same. The names change but there’s a guy with an unexplained past who drinks too much, and every woman is either a conniving murderess or a hooker. And so it goes with our return to the monochrome alleys of Sin City, more of the same. The original covered this ground, and A Dame to Kill For continues the orgy of noirisms, bloody violence and gruff narration. Far from a problem when it’s the thrill of the ride that we're buying, not nuanced character studies or a satire on urban decay. This is Rodriguez and Miller playing around with tropes and CGI action figures.

Working as part-prequel, part-sequel we fall into another series of loosely overlapping tales of revenge. Josh Brolin is on hand to replace Clive Owen’s fraying Dwight, lovestruck by Eva Green’s eponymous Dame – a role she annihilates with relish. The besotted stooge falls under her spell and is effortlessly tricked into knocking off her husband. A deception that requires the skills of Mickey Rourke’s solid steel Marv to avenge. Meanwhile Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny is a slick gambler pulling jackpots out of one-armed bandits with a personal – and ultimately self-destructive - score to settle with City boss Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). The main thread continued from the original film is that of Jessica Alba’s stripper Nancy who has turned to knocking back the booze while desperate for revenge for her friend’s death.

These paper-thin plots lumber onward, but again what is most impressive and captivating is the feeling of being in the city. With the characters shot entirely on green screen the computer generated world around them has an impressively tangible quality. The high contrast whites slicing through blacks, flashes of highlight colour, high looming camera angles – it’s teeming with murky detail.

The narrative construction and dialogue is left a distant second to its stylistics, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s story feeling particularly half baked. Ultimately as a piece it falls a little flat as it struggles to find a non-existent climax amid the melee of macho style – exiting quietly through the back door after much showy posturing. If examined too closely A Dame to Kill For will disintegrate, but it’s a funfair ride – presumably from hell, a riot of broken skulls and husky one-liners. And savoured in this pulpy spirit there is much fun to be had.


[ 2014 — Dir: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez — 102 mins — 18 cert — IMDb ]

WIN Sin City: A Dame to Kill For on DVD

WIN Sin City: A Dame to Kill For on DVD | Competition | SHELF HEROES



To celebrate the release of SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR on DVD & Blu-Ray from 15 December we’re giving away 3 copies of the film on DVD!

Reuniting for the first time since 2005’s groundbreaking SIN CITY, co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez once again bring Miller's visually stunning graphic novels to the screen.

Featuring one of the hottest casts ever assembled, SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR stars Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Eva Green and Bruce Willis, alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Ray Liotta, Powers Boothe and Lady Gaga.

SIN CITY 2: A DAME TO KILL FOR is available now from Lionsgate.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply complete the form below by liking us on FACEBOOK, answering the simple question or with one of the other easy methods.

Winners will be notified on 7th January. Open to UK residents only.

WIN Sin City: A Dame to Kill For on DVD



Electricity

Electricity | 2014 | Film Review | SHELF HEROES

★★★☆☆ 

With a smattering of small screen experience and one feature (Unconditional Love (2012)) under his belt, British director Bryn Higgins makes his sophomore bow with the flawed but ambitious Electricity, an adaptation of Ray Robinson’s novel. It stars Agyness Deyn as Lily, an epileptic arcade worker who, following the death of her estranged abusive mother, heads to London from an unspecified seaside town in search of her younger brother Mikey – the closest thing she ever had to family. Lily is a young woman defined by her illness, forced to measure her life in pills, the next fit just around the corner. Resultantly she has never grown up, still a child in gaudy clothes, in a flat surrounded by naive doodlings. The venture south is as much to find her own place in the world as to find answers about Mikey. Several leaps of faith are required along Lily’s journey – not least her being able to immediately see a doctor in London, being robbed of everything but her phone and continuing to travel with no money to her name. Trivial and silly side notes stand out all the more prominently as the pace fails ever to ignite.

Making the transition from catwalk to council estate, superstar fashion model Agyness Deyn is Electricity’s captivating draw, embodying the scarred and bruised epileptic with an honesty and vulnerability that belie the film’s comparatively weak plotting. Most impressive is how small and ordinary she is able to make Lily appear – seemingly shrinking her lofty frame and natural charisma from a day job of vacuous frenzied excitement into a genuinely rounded character. She impressed in Luis Prieto’s Pusher remake, and this leading role is sure to open up a wealth of further options.  

Deyn aside, a debutant stiffness infects much of the picture as it throws a few ideas around without grasping hold of its own characters or direction. The plot ebbs and flows, but for a film of such linear construction it painfully lacks the required drive or any of the spark alluded to by the title. Drama and intrigue are minimal, so when the fated sibling meeting takes place it’s a matter of course and little more. 

However, in amongst this staid human drama lurks something darker, and far more alluring. As Lily struggles with her condition we slip into her skull and the crackling electrical storms that pulse within, tripping into woozy flashbacks, ethereal dreamscapes and surreal inflections of body horror, as the fragile Lily narrates her innermost thoughts. Occasionally a little over-egged and trying too hard, at least these scenes have the thrill of the unexpected – viscerally punctuating the humdrum with a spark of what it is to be epileptic, and more specifically what it is to be Lily. 

Less a jolt of electricity, more a slow meander. Collectively it doesn’t hang together as well as it might, but with the star-making turn from Deyn, and its more hallucinogenic off kilter moments, there is still some bold ambition at play that warrants attention. 

[ 2014 — Dir: Bryn Higgins — 96 mins — 15 cert — IMDb ]

WIN a Classic Christmas DVD Bundle

WIN a Classic Christmas DVD Bundle | Competition | SHELF HEROES

To get into the Christmas spirit we've got an extra special giveaway this week – a stack of the best classic festive films, guaranteed to brighten up these long cold winter nights when the telly is wall to wall reality show nonsense.

The bundle will include: Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooge and Holiday Inn.



To be in with a chance of winning, simply complete the form below by liking us on FACEBOOK, answering the simple question or with one of the other easy methods.

Prizes are fulfilled by Sunrise Senior Living, who deliver award-winning assisted living care services to well over 2,000 residents in the United Kingdom.

Winners will be notified on 27th December. Open to UK residents only.

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