Assembled from the scrapyard of a nine-volume run of cult mangas from the 90s, Alita: Battle Angel is the joint production of director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. Looking at it from a distance, you might assume the costly mega-manga adaptation were more the work of the later. And that’s anything but a ding. Alita has the look and feel of a Cameron sci-fi epic. The world building is sprawling. The effects are tip-top. The spectacle is massive. There’s a reason the blockbuster guru said that the “only way” to experience his latest was in a theater. He wasn’t lying. Read More
An argument could be made that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t really a movie. There’s no real story to speak of, and what does try to pass as a story is a shambled mess of ultra-violent non-sequiturs; a collage of half-thought through ideas that never add up or mean anything in the context of one another. A movie flows through a collective of ideas adding onto one another to create a cohesive narrative. This is like someone cut up a bunch of comic books and glued their favorite parts together. And that someone is 12 and loves blood and boobies.
Nine years ago, Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller were truly onto something with Sin City. Their electrifying visual palette – stark blacks-and-whites accented by flourishes of blood red and bastard yellow – wasn’t just a new ballgame. It was a whole damn other stadium. But for all the success and acclaim their co-directorial debut received, the aesthetic trend never caught on.
Be that because Miller nosedived that visual flair into the ground with the widely panned The Spirit or because it felt like an aesthetic signature that only worked for something so rooted in the comic world and violence is unclear. What is however abundantly clear is that in the nearly 10 years since the original’s release, the largely black-and-white, entirely CG graphics have stagnated and soured. Their visuals do look straight from the pages of a hardcover graphic novel but they also lack any consequence and any gravity. Each blow is goofily powerless. Each sword strike looks like it missed. The over-seasoned and thoroughly mannered dialogue do little to convince us otherwise. But they sure do try.
This wouldn’t be such a monumental problem if the whole movie wasn’t a symphony of slamming cars, chopping off heads and getting thrown through pane glass windows. And boobies. For all intents and purposes, Miller’s sparsely imaginative storylines boil down to poor plot devices that get someone’s face from point A to point Through a Glass Window. That is intention numbers one through five. Six through ten consist of getting a dame from point A to point Naked. Seriously, if you can prove to me that this movie wasn’t one long con to reunite Jessica Alba with a stripper pole, I’ll pay your ticket price.
The craziest part is, for all the excessive nudity smeared throughout the flick, none comes from Alba’s Nancy, a stripper who spends the majority of her screen time onstage slapping flesh on hardwood and slithering around on all fours. You see, the boob award goes to Eva Green and her magnificent tata’s. That sex-kitten/minx manages to expose her simply awesome breasts for 90% of the time she occupies the space. When she’s not flipping nude into a pool, rubbing and tubbing up her silky smooth breastoids or macking out with anything with a pair of lips, she’s slipping off her garnets like they’re made of live rattlesnakes. Seriously. Chick lives in the buff. Why she doesn’t work at the strip club is beyond me.
At said Strip Club – Sin City‘s equivalent of Friend‘s Central Perk – one can stumble upon rapscallions of all shapes and sizes. Here, Alba gyrates like a made-up mechanical bull as box-faced Marv (Mickey Rourke) and other scalawags drown their sorrows in booze, taking in fully-clothed Coyote Ugly shows. I swear, Kadie’s Strip Club is the only place in the movie you won’t find a naked lass’ ass.
Here at Kadie’s, the movie reveals itself for the big show of sexy, stylized, senseless smut that it is. Here, plot lines are born and die without a smidgeon of fanfare. Here, characters rub elbows like they live in a small town of 2,000 residents. Here, lives the deus ex machina that is Marv, an individual whose sole purpose is to help characters murder other characters. He’s more MacGuffin than person, more meat than man. He’s only there to get peps out of a fix but has no storyline of his own. I guess someone out there needed to cut Mickey Rourke a paycheck.
Characters slither in and out of Kadie’s to grab their few minutes in the sun and bump uglies with the charter of vixens sprawling indoors. Joseph Gordon Levvett is compelling as a smooth-talking gambler but his plot line goes absolutely nowhere real fast. Alba, reeling from the loss of loved one Hartigan (Bruce Willis), eventually goes through a wardrobe change supposed to signal character progression but none is emotionally present. She goes from whoring herself with dangerous men to hurling herself at dangerous men and then all of a sudden the screen goes black. Nothing really happens. Just lots of murder and titties.
In the most movie-like portion of the film, Josh Brolin steps in for Clive Owen and captures the only almost-fully formed story of the bunch. However, his saga is littered with major congruency issues and logic problems of its own, the least of which is why he seems to believe that suiting up with a bad wig will make him look like an entirely new person. You scratch your head that someone actually wrote this stuff down.
For my barrage of complaints, it wouldn’t be fair to say that I hated Sin City: A Dame to Kill For because I quite honestly didn’t. I enjoy the ultra-violent, ultra-silly take on film noir. I chuckle at the trumped-up performances, meretricious violence and graphic sexuality on neon-flashing display. I gobble up the stubborn dedication to bring a comic book to life. But to claim that it’s not a bad, unnecessary, boorish slouch of a film would be a bold-faced lie. There’s little here that makes sense and nothing that will add to your understanding of Frank Miller‘s should-be compelling world of sin. Like 300: Rise of an Empire before it, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is just another chance for Frank Miller to show off how poor he is at extending franchises.