Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Equalizer

Denzel + DIY – Russians = izer

You know when you walk into McDonalds or Burger King and you see a picture of the “food” you are about to imbibe and it looks really great. When it arrives it’s a different story right? You open that box you are confronted by what looks to be some sort of rodent that crawled between a pair of ear muffs and promptly died. It happens almost every time so you set your expectations accordingly. It’s going to look terrible. Then, once in a blue moon, you open that box and the burger is less dry and anemic than usual but not only that, the top of the burger is still attached to the rest of it – almost like this one wasn’t made during an earthquake. Amazing!

So, it’s always interesting coming out of the cinema and eavesdropping everyone else’s conversations. “Did you enjoy that?”. “Yeah, I did – I thought it was very good!”. “Me too! I really liked it”. “……..bit weird”. “Yeah, it was a bit weird”. I know exactly why they thought it was weird: it’s because they watched the arse-cabbage that is the trailer. It was a bland, anemic lump of explosions and punching people sandwiched in the middle of two doughy Denzel buns. It looks like every other generic action burger… err… movie. Expectations set low. Already calling this as a 2 star review.

I forgot to check the moon tonight but it must be at least baby blue because this film was pretty fucking decent. The film opens like it’s been shot in HDR which makes it look like someone has painted a highly stylized version of our ordinary world. The colours are similar yet slightly other-wordly, there is a faint glow to the whites whilst the black are super black. The cinematography continues in this way throughout the film and it’s really pleasing on eye. It’s the sort of imagery that you could almost place in a computer game cut scene.

We are quickly introduced to our hero Robert (Denzel Washington) who, thank god, isn’t his normal quick witted, smart mouthed, cock-sure, if-he-talks-back-just-shoot-the-shit-out-of-him character. Robert is a really introverted character who likes nothing more than to be left alone to read his books. He is the epitome of the gracious old man as he tries to help people to be better but won’t force it upon them.

Robert clearly has OCD. He is methodical in everything he does, he has a routine and he sticks to it. It’s a fascinating trait that is never really developed or explained but this actually adds intrigue as to who this solitary character is and why he is this way. The film does a great job of revealing just enough for you to empathize with him but doesn’t spell anything out specifically.

It’s obvious that he’s had some sort of special training but is currently trying to live a normal life. That all changes when he feels compelled to help a local prostitute Teri (Chloë Grace Moretz) who gets beaten blacker than a McDonalds burger and bluer than the current moon.

This scene is the main one you see in the trailer where Robert takes out a group of Russians in 19 or whatever seconds. The trailer misleads you and spoils an otherwise decent scene because the build up and aftermath is both humble and saddening. The main point of the scene is that Robert is trying to play the pacifist and not that he walks into a room and decimates it as fast as possible like the trailer would have you believe.

This scene acts as the catalyst that snowballs the rest of the film. Some people may find the build up a little slow but it is all necessary to sow the films plot together, which it does surprisingly well – as much as that sodding trailer tries to spoil it for you. The script is mostly fine and with the exception of a few dodgy lines it expands Robert inner turmoil of the actions he is taking. The only other thing that made my eyes roll was the generic ‘cool guys don’t look at explosions’ scene which wasn’t really necessary, didnt fit with the rest of the film and to be honest; poorly done.

Still the final action scene when we see Robert face down a brutal Russian ‘Fixer’ called Teddy (Marton Csokas) is thoroughly enjoyable. The scene is set in the DIY store where Robert works by day and it’s really entertaining to see how he uses various tools (wires, drills, blowtorches etc) to dispatches his enemies as methodically as he sets out his knives and forks for dinner. It’s almost like a perfect run-through of Splinter Cell or some other stealth computer game. He really can do it when he B&Q’s it.

Go See

  • Drill Sergent in the home improvement store
  • Tasty cinematography
  • Methodical and well structured plot

Avoid

  • The trailer. It’s a pile of awful.
  • The ex-bro-sion
  • Slow build up

Overall

4-stars

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Riot Club

Spoiled Rotten and Needing Toff Love

Ahhhh Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, home of one of the world’s best Universities, one of the world’s best boat teams and me; a guy who is haphazardly slapping together reviews of films.

I grew up in a little village south of Oxford and I remember long ago helping out as a parking attendant at a local horse race. I ushered a Land Rover to park up and move along the row. Eventually when I get back to the Land Rover a couple of buck toothed twenty-somethings are dragging a hamper, laden with Champagne, out of the boot of the car. A voice calls out towards the front seat “Daddy?! Oh daddy….”. Fucking Toffs, I thought. Speaking of which; I just watched the Riot Club!

So the Riot club is based on a completely factual social club in Oxford University called the Bullingdon club. It’s a club that has seen some of the UK’s most powerful and influential members of society such as the Mayor of London Borris Johnson and our very own Prime Minister David Cameron. Think of it as something similar to how many of America’s greatest (and George Bush) have been part of the secret Skull & Bones brotherhood.

The Riot club, like the Bullingdon, is made up of a carefully selected group of the brightest and wealthiest students in Oxford. The film starts with the Riot club looking for two new members. They focus their sights on Alistair Ryles (Sam Claflin) and Miles Richards (Max Irons), two freshers at the uni.

One of my favourite films of all time is called Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa and this is because the characters are so well developed that you really get to know each persons character. This is something that the Riot Club also does very well. Alistair is staunchly conservative, Miles is the good guy led astray, Harry is the pretty-boy womaniser, Hugo is a slightly disillusioned closet homosexual, Guy and Toby are like Wingus and Dingus; clever but categorically hopeless with women.

Of course, this would mean nothing without the actors behind them who all do a great job of bringing the characters to life. Ben Schnetzer for me stands out here, even though he could be considered a lesser member of the club his recent performance in Pride puts him in good stead to become a man in high demand.

Obviously the script also helps to develop the characters but aside from crafting some ruddy marvelous posh talk it also slowly builds up the underlying subtext to the film. The induction process is an enjoyable series of events as the club forces dirty pints, self humiliation and tests of intellect on the new starters. After this the film hits it’s low point as the works towards one of the clubs infamous dinner nights and it’s here that not only holds the films best scene but the true nature of the club’s members is laid bare for all to see.

As conservatives with extreme views they each share a bizarre belief that they are somehow better than the rest of society because they are rich, because they are at Oxford or because Daddy was a notable figure even though it is clear that most of them are desperate individuals with the social aptitude of a half-eaten yule log. Repeatedly during the dinner perceived slights are thrown on the groups prestige by getting cheap wine, an inaccurate food menu, requests to quieten down, rejected by a prostitute etc.

All of this is like drip feeding LSD to howler monkeys. The first couple of drops might be OK but eventually they’ll go fucking nuts. You look at each club member in this scene with growing disdain wishing you could croquet their faces in. Whilst this is testiment to how powerful the scene is you are also acutely aware of the sad realisation that these people will probably get away with the shocking conclusion to the dinner and then go on to be some of Britain’s wealthiest and powerful constituents.

If we take a step back at how this is a reflection of a real society you have to wonder how far removed from the truth this film really is? Let’s face it, probably not very. That’s the world we live in where power is pretty much predetermined even if we think that our democracy has elected such officials. Vote Green. Vote blue. Vote Griffendor. Vote anyone, just don’t be a dick.

Go See

  • Brilliant characters
  • Evocative dinner scene
  • Funny Rah talk

Avoid

  • Slow build up to the dinner
  • If you think politics is as interesting as dinner with Gordon Brown
  • If you’re a Labour supporter!

Overall

4-stars

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Strictly Unofficial

Taken, Unknown, The Grey, Taken 2, Non-Stop. Just when you thought Liam Neeson was being typecast as the grizzled old man who is still a bad-ass… SURPRISE! A Walk Among The Tombstones.

Film starts with Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) necking a single measure followed by a freshly brewed mug of coffee. Buckshot ruptures the silence as the cafe owner eats lead. A startled Scudder swaggers into action. Taking cover behind the door he sends two of the perps to meet their maker. The last of the trio makes a break for it only to have a .45 round tear through his leg shortly followed by another piercing somewhere more vital with Scudder casually on-looking. Neeson is a one man army again I see.

Oh well, it’ll be enjoyable enough I guess. We rejoin Scudder about 8 years later in 1998 where an old aquaintence has asked him to help his brother find the men who kidnapped, murdered and dismembered his wife. As Scudder picks up the trail it quickly becomes apparent that he doesn’t have a very particular set of skills that will help him out. Scudder doesn’t have a cellphone, he doesn’t know how to use the internet and barely knows how to use a computer. It’s actually a really nice change to Neeson’s more recent action films.

In order for him to piece everything together he has to go about things the old fashioned way using skills he has acquired over a very long career; skills such as tailing people and crawling through public library records for newspaper clippings.

It’s whilst he is searching through the old newspapers that he finds his new partner, a 16 year old orphan boy called TJ (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley), which is short for err…. TJ. It’s a bizarre pairing but it kind of works, or does it? I can’t quite tell. On the one hand TJ is the Yin to Scudder’s Yang as TJ helps Scudder navigate through new technology and conversely Scudder becomes the father that TJ had. It’s a relationship that is honest and at times quite touching.

I actually really liked TJ as a character, he is confident and clever but oft flippant. I’m really glad that he stays as a support role because if he had played a big part in the finale then it would have ruined the films credibility. Being used a secondary tail, an information source or a gofer is just about the right amount of co-operation needed.

The flip side of this odd partnership is that it takes time away from fleshing out Scudder as our main protagonist. Who is he? What makes him tick? It also takes time away from explaining how all the leads point to our bad guys, which conveniently leads me to my next point; the bad guys.

Apart from being genuinely horrific people, and trust me they are truly heinous, the worst part is that you wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a line up. I’m sure you knew people in school that were quiet and kept themselves to themselves but deep down, at the back of your mind, you thought yeah, I’d vote for them if there is ever a ‘most likely to end up going on a murderous rampage’ award. These guys are exactly that.

Unfortunately, the trailer for this film ruins one of its most powerful and shocking scenes where our third accomplice walks off the edge of a building. That’s not the worst aspect of the film in my book though. Scudder finds out who the two murderers are by linking them to a number of similar crimes. The way that the crimes are linked aren’t properly explained… or rather they are but it’s explained in scenes that appear to be less important and I obviously didn’t pay enough attention because I left the screening with many questions about the over-arching plot.

Still the film ends well. It’s shot at night and in the rain so you get a really overbearing feeling which keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you guessing who will live and who will die. It’s also one of the rare moments of action throughout the whole film. Overall it’s a good watch that could have done with some extra plot focus and contradicting my previous ramblings; a bit more of Neeson being a bad-ass wouldn’t go a miss – just not too much.

Go See

  • Terrifying enemies
  • TJ
  • Oppressive ending scene

Avoid

  • If you are expecting Taken 3
  • Plot threads are sometimes hard to follow
  • Some awkward acting by the support cast.

Overall

3-5-stars

A Most Wanted Man

Subtle But Unsatisfying

Those of a weak constitution may want to skip the next line or two. So… apparently Philip Seymour Hoffman was difficult to work with on set. #Gasp# I hear you exclaim. “A film actor who is difficult to work with?” I hear you question. “Surely not” I hear you protest.

Well yeah, apparently so. Apart from generally being difficult he liked to drink and smoke continuously on set. Given that he died of an overdose of various drugs, its perhaps not entirely surprising that Hoffman tried to avoid sobriety on set. Now, before you berate me for making assumptions about the man’s preference of libation I have a point so bear with me.

In A Most Wanted Man Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a dour German ‘spy’ who is constantly drinking or smoking. There are lingering scenes of the downtrodden spy supping a single malt or giving a cigarette the Dot Cotton treatment. So the point is, is he acting throughout the film or is he just doing what he likes to do?

It’s unfortunate that he died so recently – that probably reads wrong – because I continued to wonder if I was watching a video diary of a man slowly killing himself. This, of course, overshadowed my interpretation of the film and is something that wouldn’t have happened if hadn’t have passed away or if his on screen character had been jumping around like Jim Carrey walking on hot coals and bees!

If you can look past these parallels then something you might not be able to look past is the accents of most of the actors. It’s strange as I would prefer actors to at least have accents if the film is meant to be set in a different country but in A Most Wanted Man I found the accents surprisingly grating and probably would have preferred either a straight up American accent or even just German with subtitles.

But if you look past all of that you are greeted with a well presented film. The film is well shot and builds a rather bleak but enjoyable atmosphere. The locations within this film stray away from typically Gothic buildings which fits with the overall style of the film. You see Hoffman stars as Günther Bachmann who leads a strictly unofficial counter-terrorist team in Hamburg Germany. Because their activity is of a shady nature the film would loose any sense of realism if the film was littered with pin-sharp images of stunning architectural feats. The wardrobe department have also done a great job to build upon this atmosphere by rooting the characters in the environment they inhabit.

Unfortunately the film is ultimately let down by it’s title as you never get the feeling that the bad guy is a most wanted man but then I guess “A man who would be nice to capture at some point if we get the resources to investigate properly” is a far less snappy title.

The problem runs deeper than just the title though because you never get the feeling that the bad guy is really all that bad you therefore never get that “oh shit!” feeling that any of the main protagonists are ever in any sort of danger like you would in a truly great spy film. Because of this the build up is incredibly slow to the extent that some people will find bordering on the verge of tedium and the pay off rather underwhelming – much like when I tell jokes!

The ending to the film is actually the best bit and is the point where you take notice of how good Philip Seymour Hoffman is as an actor and in this film at least, he was the most wanted man.

Go See

  • Well prudced
  • Decent ending
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman

Avoid

  • Slow, slow, slow
  • Missing the bad part of the bad guy
  • Abrasive accents

Overall

3-stars

The Guest

Door bell’s ringing but no-ones home

Ugh. Where to start? I guess we will start with the sound production; it’s awful, or to be more precise the music is awful. It doesn’t fit the feel of the film, it’s too loud in places, it’s not enjoyable it’s just intrusive. If you were to transplant the soundtrack to any low budget 80’s action movie then you might think it was a great soundtrack but it really has no place in this film.

The acting isn’t great either although you get the feeling that it might not necessarily be the actors fault. The reason I say this is because the film is desparately trying to be Drive.

Dan Stevens stars as Ryan Gosling err… I mean David who arrives unexpectedly at the Patterson family house claiming to be a friend of their son who died in the line of duty.

David is deliberately aloof and cold in the same way Gosling’s character is in Drive. This quiet introverted guy explodes into ultra – violence and then leaves as calmly as he arrived. This is where the film is at its best, when David physically or verbally puts down other people you would almost be forgiven for thinking the film was actually pretty decent.

The pacing of the film is too fast to accentuate David’s calculated nature making it really difficult to invest much interest in his character. Sub par acting from the rest of the Patterson family makes it hard to care what happens to them either. It’s a shame really because the film has a lot of promise and what could have been an interesting concept to explore.

Have you seen that funny picture, which sometimes circles the interweb, of beautiful pencil drawn tiger face? It’s funny because the artist’s boyfriend decided to ‘complete’ the picture only for it to look like a primary school drawing? No? Well here it is: Tiger

That picture is a perfect analogy for this film. It starts good but you are left with an ending designed by a 5 year old. Without spoiling the movie; David isn’t quite what he made himself out to be and it means that people are hunting him down. Who these people are and why they are hunting him is dealt with in about 3 minutes so if you didn’t pay attention then the plot becomes nonsensical. Also, the location of the finale is so far removed from the rest of the film it’s just bonkers. It feels more like a scene from a horror movie than a gritty drama.

Unfortunately that’s not all. The absolute worst part is the very end of the film which made me want to punch myself in the face for ever thinking this might be a really, really good film… then I wanted to punch the boyfriend for ever finishing that damn tiger in the first place!

Go See

  • Powerful fight scenes
  • Entertaining first half
  • Cool bar scene

Avoid

  • bland characters
  • Ropey plot
  • Terrible ending

Overall

1-5-stars

Pride

Touching drama… not each other!

I was always terrible at history when I was at school; probably because I tended to switch off especially when it came to the industrial revolution and onwards.

With that in mind it’s probably to no-ones surprise that me providing historical reference to Pride is about as useful trying to play Xbox games on a PlayStation. To give myself some credit the only things I was doing around the time of the miners strikes was crying as I soiled myself or if my parents were lucky simply learning to crawl.

1984 in the UK saw the birth of little ol’ me but it’s also when Margret Thatcher announced the widespread closure of mines and coal pits affecting some of poorest members of society. This is where Pride starts off. A politically active member of the gay community, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), draws comparison with the downtrodden miners and his own LGBT society. Determined to help in whichever way he can he makes it his mission to collect as much money as possible to support the miners.

Mark and his band of ‘perverts’ raise money to support those in the pits and eventually goes to a small Welsh village to give support face to face.

Obviously the first thing they are faced with is extreme prejudice. They walk in a room, everyone else walks out. Little by little they gain not only the acceptance but also the respect of the mining community and it would be really easy to boil the film down to a story of overcoming prejudice but that would be missing the bigger picture.

The film is about relationships and its something that everyone can relate to. Cast your mind back to when your best friend helped you out of a tight spot, it gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling right? Like all of life’s little problems are no longer insurmountable.

As the film progresses we are frequently and pleasantly reminded of this feeling whether it be from the developing acceptance of the gay community by the miners, inter personal relationships within the LGSM group or re-uniting family relations. All of this is really carefully and honestly portrayed by the whole cast each of whom gave superb performances especially Gethin played by Andrew Scott.

The film is hugely accessible, partly through periodic injections of British humour, even when it still deals with its contentious subject matter because there is rarely any gay/lesbian romance scenes to cause any feeling of discomfort.

One thing that some might hold against the film is that it doesn’t particularly feel like a movie it feels like a TV film; hardly surprising as it is a BBC film but hey you are paying about a tenner to see a movie right?

I’m not well versed on the lesbian or gay scene – I think I sat next to one on the bus once? – but it certainly feels like an opportune moment for the film to release as there appears to be more of a push for the social acceptance in recent months of the LGBT community. Hell even Sony have gotten involved in the action by making a rainbow coloured version of the aforementioned PlayStation and they even called it the GayStation with all proceeds going to LGBT charities. Good times.

In all I highly recommend you watch this film as it is a celebration of equality, respect and friendship; attributes that sometimes feel all too distant in today’s society, queerly enough.

Go See

  • Great performances all round
  • British wit
  • Honest and heartfelt messages superbly delivered

Avoid

  • A little too long
  • Felt like a TV movie

Overall

4-5-stars

Before I Go To Sleep

Not so forgettable

Daylight. The morning intrudes on the previous night of sweet slumber. Awake but unsure of the surroundings there is an arm of unknown origin that partially cradles. Bedsheets peeled back, an unsteady journey begins towards the bathroom, stumbling over an obstacle course that feels more like boulders than carpet at such an unforgiving time of day. Click, the light flickers into action, it’s rays force eyelids closed like a startled clam. Eventually the muscles relax enough to allow stilted vision only to find a stranger staring directly back. It takes a moment but the stranger is hauntingly familiar.

Anyway, that’s how my mornings generally start and it’s not too dissimilar to how Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) wakes up either. At this point of course my brain starts to construct my reality. Oh yeah! It’s about 6am, that’s a mirror and that’s what ‘roughly’ looks like me staring back. I’m in my house and I woke up next to my girlfriend. This isn’t the case for Christine however as she suffers from amnesia, every day starts off bemusing and only gets more confusing.

Similar to Memento, the wonderful Christopher Nolan film from 2000, every day Christine has to piece together bits of information that will help her remember her past. This is done by photos and notes littered about the house by her husband Ben (Colin Firth). What Ben doesn’t know is that Christine has solicited the help of Dr Nash (Mark Strong) a professional psychiatrist who has suggested she keeps a secret video diary to ensure it is her thoughts being recorded and hers alone.

The film starts off very slowly, which is to it’s detriment, but is also a necessary evil. By starting off slow we get to be eased in to finding out about Christine and Ben’s back story. We find out that a brutal attack on Christine has left her unable to remember whilst also seeding the idea that Ben and Dr Nash might not be trustworthy. This slow start does help to build up tension and small punctuation marks such as traffic hurtling by unannounced provides temporary alarming release.

The slow start did also make me question the performance of the two male leads; Colin Firth felt especially ‘doughy’ and uninteresting. Christine starts realising that Ben is her protector and just before your attention starts drifting the films pace ramps up so many gears it’s like a slap in the face.

If you are terrible at guessing plot twists then congratulations it probably means you are too involved in the film to second guess it and will therefore get more out of the film than your mate who goes “Yep! Saw that coming”. In recent years I seem to be guessing plot twists more but the twist in this film was truly unexpected. Unless you have read the book it is unlikely you will guess it either.

As the film grows so do the performances and the ‘doughy’ start is all but forgotten. the fast pace trots to a satisfying conclusion but only to turn into a gushy Hollywood ending in the very last scene and that’s a real shame. I know it probably has to follow the book but simply withholding some bits of information and cutting the last scene short by about a minute and a half would have led to a much snappier ending.

The only other minor criticism is that the casting for the supporting characters didn’t feel quite right and nor did some of the dialogue. Namely Christine’s friend Claire (Anne-Marie Duff) didn’t seem like best buds. Claire mentions that Christine means so much to her but we never really know why this is as there is very little back story to flesh out this relationship apart from a few party photos.

Still, neither the ending nor the supporting cast can take away from the fact that the film was really well crafted and in hindsight had some very effective pacing. All that’s left to do is publish this before I go to sleep.

Go See

  • Great performances keep you guessing “who done it”
  • The “You are my protector” scene
  • Unexpected twist

Avoid

  • Gushy ending that doesn’t fit the feel of the rest of the film
  • Slow to get going
  • Supporting cast have too little air time

Overall

4-stars

Sex Tape

More of a balls up than balls out comedy

Everyone loves a good ‘fail’ video. One of the most recent ones I saw was of a steeplechase and in it there are loads of athletes clipping the water jump and face planting straight into the water. Sex Tape is basically one of these athletes.

In all fairness it must be really hard to make a hilarious movie as people have such varied tastes when it comes to what things tickle their funny bone. Making a film that can cross such boundaries is a rather large hurdle and one that I wouldn’t want to try and vault over.

Its safe to say that Sex Tape isn’t ‘hilarious’. It’s not ‘very funny’ or even ‘amusing’, at best it is mildly entertaining… sometimes. I guess that in itself is a pretty damning review for a comedy film, after all, the main thing a comedy needs to do is make you chuckle.

The film starts off with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel going at it like rabbits on heat in a similar vein as the start of Bridesmaids. The film then meanders through the couple getting married and having kids and finding no time to bring back their pre-marrital passion. In order to inject a bit of Spark they decide to make a sex tape. Once made it goes to the mysterious cloud and unfortunately Segel’s cloud is synced with lots of other devices given to friends so the race is on to stop the video from leaking.

The main problem that keeps this film from being funny is that there is too much focus on grounding it in reality. It tries to portray a philosophical message about how life doesn’t have to end after marriage/children it just has to evolve and focus on what made it great in that first few months of dating. Fine, ground it in reality, make a statement but if this is grounded in reality what the hell do the couple do for a job? Segel is some sort of rock concert man with playlists that means he has ipads to give away? Diaz writes a mum blog that wants to be bought by a company that makes family happiness and pineapple? ah fuck I don’t know.

The characters are so poorly fleshed out that the film feels like it should be a brash teen comedy and some of the gags suit this slapstick style of humour. Some being the key word here. It’s not wild enough to be stupidly funny and it’s not refined enough to be a comedy-drama so what we are left with is porridge – by itself it’s just a bland gloop.

The film picks up in the middle where Cameron Diaz does coke at her prospective boss’s house and Segel fights a dog but it’s Segel’s friends (Rob Corddry & Ellie Kemper) whose comic timing steals the show. But the bizarre and under-developed characterisation of Diaz’s boss (Rob Lowe) detracts from the whole scene for me.

The film ends with us seeing parts of the sex tape and whilst some of it was funny, notably Diaz doing ‘fuckrobatics’ or ‘gymnasticourse’, I couldn’t help but wish I’d just spent 10 minutes watching some silly faux sex tape rather than watching 94 minutes of Sex Tape.

Go See

  • Front flip ‘docking’ scene
  • If you think the price of a cinema ticket is worth seeing Diaz/Segel in almost full frontal

Avoid

  • Lacking any character development
  • It’s not very funny
  • Poor delivery of the films message

Overall

1-5-stars

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

2 Tame to Kill For

I currently drive a bright red Seat Leon and there are two major problems with it. Firstly the turbo is on its way out and secondly the air con has packed in. When I walked out of the Sin City 2 screening last night It reminded me of my car; It still looks nice and all the components are there but it lacks a bit of “oomph” and it’s not as cool as it used to be.

The noir visuals are still there and still splashed with colour, the monologues are still introspective and revealing of a character’s psyche, the film is still violent, still filled with erotic scenes and still walks a fine line between comic book and film yet somehow it all seems a bit flat.

Perhaps it’s because it’s been done before? Perhaps the original was very much a film of 2005 and it has no longer relevant in today’s society? I don’t think this is the case.

I don’t often re-watch originals before watching the sequel but when I was thinking about the original the only thing that I could remember was the yellow dude, you know, the one that looks like a goblin has been bathing in pee. In ten years time, when I think back to this movie the most noticeable character will be Wallenquist who looks a bit like a fish in a suit and is in the film for all of 1 minute.

The characters in a Dame to Kill For were not overly interesting and the lack of a memorable villain – Wallenquist would have been ideal – meant the film didn’t feel like it went anywhere. The characters made Sin City feel a bit more like Sane City as the themes that were explored were neurotic women, gambling, power and revenge. Compare this to the original’s cannibalism, rape, murder, greed and Sin City 2 feels a bit tame and no amount of chopping off heads can counter this.

The original Sin City had about 5 mini stories that were tangentially linked together and it’s only in the last segment of the film where we meet our pee goblin and all the threads tie up. It was story telling that we hadn’t really seen since Pulp Fiction perhaps. Sure, once this style has been done then it becomes old hat but in Sin City 2 we have about 3 longer threads that unfortunately don’t tie up or rather they tie up but only as well as the first time I tied my own shoelaces.

Johnny’s story (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is case in point here. Johnny, a cock-sure gambler, was probably the best character in the film. He has made it his mission to prove that Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), the most powerful man in Sin City, can be beaten but this thread just ends with absolutely no consequence in the Sin City universe. We also see Marv (Mickey Rourke) buddy up with Dwight (Josh Brolin) to go up against an army of minions just because he was asked, or because they drink in the same place? Maybe the two are actually friends? I couldn’t tell. It’s a shame that the narrative in Sin City 2 feels so disparate and fractured especially when compared to how well crafted the original was.

The noir visuals also differ from the original. It’s only subtle but it’s there. The original was always raining, or windy or snowing and feels like it has a better contrast of pure black & white whilst number the most recent entry has more mid range grey with less flourishes of those bleached out background items and more splashes of colour. All this really added to the atmosphere of the original and made the city feel really oppressive and grim. In places Sin City 2 is not as brash and in others not as subtle so whilst you get a better feeling that this is a city and not just a couple of isolated locations you can’t help but feel that the whole place is not as sinful.

Interestingly the original, darker Sin City came out a few years before the recession that seemed to have more dips than Orlando Florida’s best roller-coaster and here is a lighter version that is released as the economy has positive growth again so perhaps it is more relevant in today’s society than we thought.

I feel like I’m being overly harsh on the film. The visual style of the film is still beautiful, the script is still decent but – like my car – when you compare what it was to what it is now it’s just a bit of let down.

Go See

  • Still love the visual style
  • Johnny. I wish I was that good with cards.
  • Jessica Alba. Still hot.

Avoid

  • Uninteresting characters that aren’t as sinful
  • Fractured narrative
  • Too much ‘gloss’ reduces atmosphere and oppressive feeling of the city

Overall

3-stars