Saturday, August 30, 2014

Movie Reviews: Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, Let's Be Cops

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (hereafter referred to as Sin City 2) stars Eva Green's breasts in the leading role. I think they ought to win an award. They dominate every scene they're in. Seriously. In the rare moments when Green is not topless or completely nude, she's usually braless in diaphanous clothing. Acting in support were Rosario Dawson's full lips and Jessica Alba's perpetual motion waist and hips. Some people may be impressed by this; others may yawn. The target audience for Sin City 2 likely includes many people who would be dazzled by Green's mammary glands which probably explains why they get so much screen time. Once you get past the "They're real and they're spectacular" aspects of Green's performance you realize that this noir cartoon has less going for it than its predecessor did. So if you have low expectations this film is for you. Green's sneering, red lipped, exaggerated, femme fatale performance would have been almost as enjoyable had she not spent the entire film showing what her mother gave her. There's nothing subtle here.

Dangerous men and even more dangerous women populate the corrupt hellhole of Sin City. Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) presides over the city with lip curling sadism and diabolical demeanor. No good deed goes unpunished. Everyone considers revenge to be the highest moral virtue.
Like the original, Sin City 2 has many different storylines that jump around in time. I will have to reread the graphic novels. I think that only one of the film storylines was directly taken from the graphic novel. Fan favorite hulking bruiser Marv (Mickey Rourke) is still alive. He died in the original. Marv appears throughout the film. Sin City 2 is better for that, though Marv doesn't have enough to do. Noble cop Hartigan (Bruce Willis) exists as a ghost and memory in Sin City 2. Fallen angel stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) misses him greatly. Hartigan saw Nancy as innocent and had no lecherous interest in her. Nancy can't stop thinking about Hartigan's death and Roark's responsibility. Marv is Nancy's current platonic protector. Anyone who bothers her while she's working will have serious problems with Marv. Upsetting Marv isn't smart. I can't recall exact specifics but I remember reading that deceased New York City Genovese Family Mafia Boss Vincent Gigante liked to play gin rummy with his criminal subordinates. He would routinely declare gin. The opposing player would immediately throw in his hand without asking to see Gigante's cards. In most organizations, criminal or not, you don't beat the boss in whatever game he likes to play. That can be a real career limiting move. But young and possibly supernaturally gifted gambler Johnny (Joseph Gordon Levitt) couldn't care less. 

Armed only with his wits and his good luck charm girl Marcie (Julia Garner) Johnny challenges Senator Roark at poker, despite being warned repeatedly that this is folly. Roark wields immense institutional and personal power. Like the song says sometimes you got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. 

Private detective Dwight (Josh Brolin) shows his gallant side when violence starts between the cheating husband he's tailing (Ray Liotta) and the prostitute the husband is seeing. Afterwards Dwight is called by his ex-lover Ava (Eva Green). She needs his help. Dwight has an on again off again relationship with prostitute protector Gail (Rosario Dawson) but Ava really pushes his buttons. Ava is a woman who always leaves marks on a man, sometimes physical ones. Obsession is her calling card. When you look like Eva Green you can probably find numerous men ready, willing and eager to help you even if they, like Dwight, despise you. Eva Green steals the show. Despite my appreciation for her physical attributes I think this entire movie should have been played less over the top. Lauren Bacall showed us that you can be super sexy and still leave things to the imagination. It is fascinating that some women can make some men deliberately act against what they know is in their best interest. In extreme cases, such men are literally bewitched. It's a weakness but one that is a permanent part of the human, well at least the masculine, condition. Snicker.
Sin City 2 has an intense pulpy black and white palette combined with sudden splashes of blue, green or red. This is basically fast food noir. It hints at the great 30s-50s noir films. But Sin City 2 never transcends its comic book graphic novel origins. Green made the strongest impression but that's not saying much. The dialogue is generally flat. Unless you crave the Rodriguez-Miller cinematography, are a Green fan or need to see a woman ninja decapitate scores of bad guys you won't miss much by skipping this film or waiting for DVD release. The first film was exciting. But sequels rarely match the original. The film possesses a very strong "been there done that" aura. Sin City 2 is stylish but hollow. After the beheadings, beatings, tough guy one liners and sex appeal there's nothing to care about. This sequel took too long to arrive. This is the second film I've recently seen featuring Green as a freaky unhinged sexual siren. She may have found her calling. Other featured actors/actresses include Christopher Lloyd, Lady Gaga, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Jamie Chung, Jaime King, Stacy Keach and Marton Csokas.

Let's Be Cops
directed by Luke Greenfield
How can Damon Wayans Jr., a full grown man who stands 6'2", have such a nasally, whiny high pitched voice? Where's the rumble in his mumble? Does he need a testosterone patch? Those were my first thoughts after watching this wildly uneven semi-comedy. The film might have worked better had it gone for full blown loony tune slapstick. Or maybe the director and writer(s) could have chosen an even darker route and riffed on racism, desperation to be somebody, fragile self-esteem, police brutality, corrupt cops, and other things that aren't necessarily light comedy. However the writers and directors decided to take the middle road and mix both of those approaches together, something that didn't really work for me. YMMV. There are some funny moments here or there I guess. I may have laughed once or twice. Maybe. I think I mentally checked out once the fat naked man showed up. Yes that was a turning point. I thought this was a comedy sketch that was drawn out far beyond the point where you stopped laughing. The film was probably 20-30 minutes too long. Sometimes less is more.

Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr.) and his best friend/roommate Ryan O'Malley (Jake Johnson) are Los Angeles residents who have just turned thirty. While their old college friends are getting married or moving forward in their careers, these two are stuck in neutral. Although Justin can't technically be called a loser because he actually has a paying job as a video game designer, at work he is ignored and insulted by his boss. His boss ridicules Justin's concepts. He does everything but wipe his bottom with Justin's ideas. The boss requires Justin to take notes as coworkers or the boss explain their supposedly much better ideas. Justin lacks any sympathetic woman to give him emotional support because he's afraid to put the moves on Josie (Nina Dobrev), a friendly waitress at his favorite restaurant. Ryan probably can be termed a loser because his paid jobs are rare to non-existent. Ryan was a college quarterback with pro potential. But he hurt himself in a freak accident before the draft. For the past decade or so Ryan has been reminding everyone about who he was, and reliving thrills by playing football with kids. Because a grown man hanging around pre-teen boys is not creepy at all. Uh-huh. Whatever else Ryan is, unlike Justin, shy he is not.

Justin is pragmatic. Ryan is given to flights of fancy. They promised each other that if they hadn't made their mark in LA by thirty they'd give up and return to Ohio. Attending a local college reunion party, the two dress up as cops. They thought it was a costume party when it really was a masquerade party. Leaving the event even more depressed, they slowly realize that their costumes fool everyone on the street, including real cops. For Ryan the received deference from people on the street and romantic or sexual interest from random women become ends in and of themselves. Ryan sees no reason to stop pretending he's a police officer. He inserts himself and Justin into real police work. In his cop uniform Justin finds the confidence to break the ice with Josie. Josie is looking for a good man and a protector. She thinks a cop might satisfy both needs. When Josie's parents' restaurant is shaken down by a nasty, hyperviolent Russian gangster (James D'Arcy) who's contemptuous of cops, Justin learns that you can't fake bravery. Will Justin discover an assertive side? Will Ryan find a purposeful life? Oh the suspense! Keegan-Michael Key plays a Black/Hispanic hoodlum. Natasha Leggero appears as a kinky sex mad cop groupie. Andy Garcia shows up to collect a check. Dobrev was underutilized. The Daily Show's Rob Riggle plays a straitlaced patrol officer who's slow to realize who Justin and Ryan are. A loud physically aggressive overweight black woman beats people up. You can't make a comedy without that I guess. This movie is something that you can safely skip. 
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