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‘Sin City’ sequel does little to stand on its own merits

Date: 9/4/2014

A loud and brassy sequel and the most heartfelt zombie movie I’ve seen in a while are in this week’s film review column.

In Theaters: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

I’m a big fan of the first “Sin City” movie, an audacious adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic book series. Director Robert Rodriguez took the dangerous route of trying to reproduce the look of Miller’s gritty and stark black and white illustrations with live actors and succeeded, thanks to green screen and computer animation technology.

Miller’s stories are modern riffs on classic film noir themes: stories set at night, morally conflicted heroes, femme fatales, crooked politicians and a huge dose of sex and violence.

The first film told interrelated stories that were centered on a good cop trying to protect a girl from a psychopathic killer who was the son of the senator who controls the city.  The movie was fresh and compelling and the trick was to be able to do something in the second film that would expand the narrative or give audiences something new.

That’s the problem with the new film – it is simply a sequel and a rather direct one. In order for this film to make sense to a viewer who hasn’t seen the first film, I’d recommend watching “Sin City” before attempting the second.

Miller’s script is an examination about power. Yes, the sex and violence may blur that for some audiences, but Miller wants to show how people acquire power and keep it.

Ava (played by Eva Green) maintains her power over men through appealing to their heroism, sexual needs or greed.  Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) seems to determined to strip power away from Sen. Roark (Powers Boothe) through beating him at cards. Nancy (Jessica Alba) is looking for the power to avenge the cop who protected her. Roark lives to build and exercise his control over the people of Sin City.

The film falters at times in underscoring this obvious theme, especially in the story involving Johnny and his card game with Roark with a conclusion that is predictable.

The film also leads us to some dead ends, such as the sub-plot involving a cheating husband played by Ray Liotta. A film like this can’t meander.

While the performances are not subtle – Boothe really chews the scenery in this one – Alba and Rourke stand out in their roles. Green is also good as an ultimate bad girl.

I enjoyed the film, but would be the first to admit its violence and sex are definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and this second serving lacked much of the electricity of the first film.

On DVD: Revelation Trail

I’ve not had a zombie movie shipped to me for review in at least a couple of months and here is one that is definitely Red Box fodder. It’s a zombie Western!

That fact alone compelled me to watch it. I don’t think I can sit through another Nazi zombie movie.

This extremely low-budget film is supposedly set in a western state in 1882. The zombies just start appearing and our hero is a small town preacher who loses his family to them.

He teams up with a town’s sheriff in an effort to reach some community untouched by the plague. Along the way they kill a lot of zombies, each of which receives a burial service from the preacher – a move that doesn’t seem too sensible to me.

This is a very earnest little film with the two main characters having plenty of philosophical chats. There’s not much tension, though, and nothing zombie fans haven’t seen many times before other than heroes on horseback.

The “making of” feature on the DVD shows just what a struggle it was for the filmmakers to produce the film and watching it I honestly wished their end product had been better. They clearly wanted to do something different and legitimate.

They came close at times in this film, but not close enough.