Saturday, June 28, 2014

Guest Review: Musings on the Upcoming Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Every once in awhile I like to let someone else take the driver's seat (especially when I hit writer's block). So when Libby Cudmore, published author and mastermind behind Geek Girl Goes Glam, a year-long experiment in vintage beauty, wanted to write about the new Sin City film coming out August 22, I said girl, bring it. Read on and when you're done, check out her new project, Glam Geek Writes: Deep Thoughts on Writing Music, Movies and TV for more thoughtful insights on our pop media culture.  

So without further ado...Libby Cudmore everyone!

I wish I could be more excited for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.  Throw it in a blender with Tom Waits and Raymond Chandler and some crappy jobs and a few intense but unorthodox relationships, and Sin City was part of what defined a decent portion of my early 20s. It was the theme of my legendary 22nd birthday party and the inspiration for more than one unpublished novel.  Even as I write this, a Gail action figure stares me down from the shelf above my desk.   But I had given up hope that A Dame to Kill For would ever get made.  Robert Rodriguez has been promising that the sequel was due out “this year” since 2007.  Sin City 2 was another broken cinematic promise, a relic of a bygone era and a bygone girl, a faded photograph left over from happier days.

So when the trailer surprised me on a Friday afternoon in late March, I thought three things: 1) This film looks terrible, 2) Where the fuck is Clive Owen?  After all these years, all the Comic-Con promises and Machete sequels, there was proof that, oh bollocks, this might actually happen and it might actually be terrible.  It was like finally reuniting with an old lover, only to realize that he didn’t remember any of your in-jokes and was kind of boring and not as cute as you remember.  

But to this day, I can still quote significant portions of Sin City, which remains one of my less annoying talents.  So, joined by my friend and fellow Sin City junkie Jason and Something Awful’s resident film critic Joseph Wade, we tried to see if we could review A Dame to Kill For – which none of us have seen yet – using only quotes from the original.  Here’s some of what we came up with:

The Critic with Libby at her Sin City Party
--“I can only express puzzlement which borders on alarm.”
--“Everybody knows what’s coming next, but they go through the motions anyways.”
--“Everything is under control.  Enjoy the show.”
--“Don’t scream.Whatever he does, don’t scream.”
--“And everything seemed to be going so well."'

I’d like to see these on the poster.  It might give me more hope for this movie not being an absolute heartbreak, because I can’t imagine A Dame to Kill For not living up to the fairly grim expectations we’ve set before it.  For starters, it’s not based on a particularly good comic.  Whereas The Hard Goodbye is still a heartbreakingly brutal little piece of crime fiction (made even better by Mickey Rourke’s gut-wrenchingly powerful performance as Marv, who could have just been played as another dumb, gravel-voiced lug like Bruce Willis’ Hartigan), A Dame to Kill For is and always has been a misogynistic, fedora-sporting piece of faux-noir garbage.  It’s got all the elements of noir – the femme fatale, the guns and the booze and the bodies piling up – but with none of the heart that makes The Hard Goodbye really tick.  It’s all window-dressing, and ugly curtains at that.  The Big Fat Kill is saved by Clive Owen’s sheer handsomeness and brooding intensity, but what does Josh Brolin have but a bald head and a sneer?  The Dwight in the comic doesn’t give Brolin a lot to work with.  Brittany Murphy and Michael Clark Duncan are both gone, plus we have to put up with a “never-before-seen” Nancy Callihan story where she’s an “avenging angel,” which is possibly my least favorite noir trope in the hands of my least favorite Sin City character played by an incompetent hack of an act-tor-ress who, at her most drah-mah-tic, only ever manages to look mildly irritated, like she just discovered that Ghost-Hartigan left the toilet seat up again. 

“I’m sorry, Wendy,” Marv says in one of the last exchanges of The Hard Goodbye, hours before he’s set to go to the electric chair for killing Cardinal Rourke and feeding Kevin to the wolves. “I got confused, seeing you like this.” To this, she replies, “You can call me Goldie, if you want.”  It’s a scene that always makes me tear up despite the fact that it’s a little weird to cry at Sin City; a small, precious moment of generosity and humanity in an over-stylized story that has been, up until that moment, almost wall-to-wall brutality.  It’s these kind of moments that are completely lacking from A Dame to Kill For, the kind of moments that make real characters out of cardboard cut-outs and bring life out of green screen and prosthetic faces.

 Maybe A Dame to Kill For will be good, I don’t know. I’m going to see it anyways, because I’m going to put on a red dress for my friend Mike and we’re going to watch it at the drive-in under the meteor shower.  But it’s been nine years and half a dozen life changes since the film that made me dream in black and white for a week and defined the crime fiction I would build my reputation as a writer on, and I cannot help but approach A Dame to Kill For with a cautious nostalgia. And like Marv, I can call this new movie Sin City, but in my heart, I know that even if it’s the best film I’ve ever seen, it’s never going to be the film I waited for.  

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