Movie Review: 'Sin City' dives back into a noir abyss

Aug 22 2014, 13:32 IST
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SummaryAfter being clonked over the head in 1944's ''Murder, My Sweet,'' Raymond Chandler's immortal private...

After being clonked over the head in 1944's ''Murder, My Sweet,'' Raymond Chandler's immortal private eye Philip Marlowe wryly narrated the experience of being knocked out: ''A black pool opened up at my feet. I jumped in.''

In ''Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,'' a belated, 3-D sequel to 2005's ''Sin City,'' cultishly-adored graphic novelist Frank Miller and genre-exploiting director Robert Rodriguez have again jumped right into the same dark abyss Dick Powell's Marlowe fell into, into the same noir sea - or, at least, some hyper-stylized version of it. This is hardboiled on heroin.

Both ''Sin City'' movies are double layers of aesthetic idolatry: Miller, famed for his ''Dark Knight'' reimagining of Batman, worships at the pulp altar of Chandler and Mickey Spillane, while Rodriguez is slavishly devoted to turning Miller's two-dimensional drawings into cinematic flesh. (Miller's name precedes the film's title and he shares directing credit with Rodriguez.) They each approach their tasks with gusto that can only be admired, even if the results can't.

Like its predecessor, ''A Dame to Kill For'' was made with an almost entirely digital palate, placing actors - Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Eva Green - on a starkly black-and-white canvas in a fictional (but very Los Angeles-like) permanent-midnight metropolis of rampant crime, extreme brutality and skin-baring luridness. It's described with tough-guy poetry like: ''the kind of place your father doesn't want to talk about.''

Stitched together are a grotesque handful of overlapping revenge tales carried out by thin stereotypes: a stripper (Alba) bent on killing a corrupt politician (the magnetic, teeth-clenching Powers Boothe); a pained loner (Brolin) caught in the spell of a Medusa-like femme fatale (Green, her green eyes aflame); a gambler (Gordon-Levitt) aiming to, at the poker table, humble the father (again Boothe's senator) who abandoned him. Rourke, with an exaggerated rock of a face and a trench coat for a cape, is a kind of overseer and always-game enforcer.

The best thing about the shadowy digital landscape is that it brings the focus even more sharply on the actors' faces. As a murderous adulterer, Ray Liotta's eyes are even buggier, which didn't seem possible.

It's a nihilistic nightmare of a world. Glimmers of hope or love were long ago extinguished, and to say the place gets tiresome would be an understatement. Miller proudly wallows in the moral emptiness, which might actually haunt if it had anything about life

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