2 posts categorized "Neo-noir"

August 25, 2014

Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Black, White, and Red
Greed, Lust, and Violence Do It Again for Frank Miller and Robert Rodriquez

Sin-city-dame-to-kill-forOozing with more hard-boiled wit than a dozen Dashiell Hammett novels and more visually compelling than every comic book movie Hollywood has put out in the past three years combined, “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” is an action-packed feast. Graphic novelist Frank Miller once again shares directing credit with Robert Rodriguez in creating a sequel that is every bit as narratively gripping and visually stunning as their original “Sin City” (2005).

Though its perfunctory 3D treatment leaves much to be desired, the film’s noir atmosphere is beautifully lush. Ink-dark blacks reflect against stark whites to give Sin City and its bold characters a place for their many gray shades of seething violence and sex to exist. Precisely situated splashes of color emphasize the visual dynamic on display. A blue dress, emerald green eyes, and a candy-apple red convertible with fins conspire to set your imagination reeling.  

Four intertwining tales of lust, revenge, corruption, and wanton violence play out with a gallows humor as razor-sharp as it is delightful for audiences attuned to the pitch. The movie is all about panache, and it has plenty to spare.

“I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.” Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Johnny has the hardened perspective of a cardshark who never looses. Slot machines dump out their coins like vomiting drunks to Johnny after he insures his luck with a kiss on the coin from a girl he picks up for the night. Her blonde hair cuts across the black-and-white surroundings like a banana peel on asphalt. Johnny’s primary objective is to clean out Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) in a backroom poker game where he’s warned he’ll be torn apart. Johnny’s agenda to humiliate Roark by taking him to the cleaners at poker has a personal motivation. Roark is Johnny’s estranged father. No love-loss sits between them. Johnny may be smart, tough, and mean but Roark covers his bets with goons, guns, and [notably] pliers. Ouch.

JGL Sin CityOne-handed card shuffling is one of Johnny’s impressive tricks of his trade. The movie revels in details like these to give the audience little delights with every sequence. Still, Johnny bites off more than he can chew. It’s a dilemma that every character in the story suffers from at one time or more.

Mickey Rourke returns from the first movie as Marv, a hulking badass who lives to kick self-righteous butt whenever he gets the chance — which is pretty frequently. Marv keeps busy in the punch-‘em-up department, coming to the rescue of Jessica Alba’s revenge-seeking erotic dancer Nancy, and backing up Josh Brolin’s private detective character Dwight.

Eva Green’s Ava is a femme fatal few men can resist, especially Dwight, whose body and soul Ava owns. Layers of noir-inflected shadows do little to hide Ava’s nude body that she uses to flaunt, taunt, and screw her way up the ladder of financial supremacy. Not even Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” had anything on Ava’s hot-and-cold personality. When Ava takes a midnight swim in her mansion pool, the filmmakers take full advantage of the opportunity to frame Eva Green’s sensuous body from above and below the water’s surface. The erotic effect is spellbinding.

Blood spills like so much spilled milk — sometimes white, sometimes red, sometimes black, blood is the all-encompassing bodily fluid that connects the doomed citizens of Sin City. Miller and Rodriguez conspire to create a contained adult play land of sleaze and brutality where greed, lust, and revenge lead to spasmodic episodes of climatic eruptions. All lives are destroyed. All sins are paid. Sin City soils all those that live there. You know, it’s a place just like the one a lot of people are in; it’s called America.   

Rated R. 102 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)


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January 23, 2006


Anti-Christmas Black Comedy For Grinches
Cusack And Thornton Get Sleazy
By Cole Smithey

Ice_harvest"The Ice Harvest" is a poor man’s cross between the Cohen brothers "Blood Simple" and "Fargo," with a sprinkle of atmosphere copped from "The Ice Storm." It’s an anti-Christmas black comedy for every card-carrying Grinch.

Set in the wicked cold temperatures of a Wichita Falls Christmas Eve, the movie kicks off with a barely glimpsed heist of $2,147,000 in cash by an unlikely duo of incompetent thieves played by John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. Thornton’s laid back pornographer character Vic advises crooked mob lawyer Charlie (Cusack) to act "normal" while he (Vic) keeps their loot safe until the next morning, by which time the overnight freezing rain will have sufficiently thawed for them to escape on a morning flight to an undisclosed tropical locale.

Cole smithey

Charlie predictably falls prey to his own insecurities and telegraphs his guilt to everyone he encounters as he bounces between strip clubs like a bee collecting pollen. John Cusack heats up his character’s vulnerability to a carbuncle over his misguided affection for a wily stripper named Renata (Connie Nielsen). When he isn’t making plans for Renata to run away with him, Charlie does some holiday family visiting with his alcoholic best friend Pete (comically played by Oliver Platt), who has done Charlie the favor of marrying Charlie’s ice queen ex-wife.

The Ice Harvest movie review & film summary (2005) | Roger Ebert

One particularly funny gag has Charlie assisting Pete in recovering a testicle kicked into Pete’s "body cavity" by the boyfriend of a female bartender that Pete verbally insulted in his inebriated state. Oliver Platt steals the movie with a take-no-prisoners comic approach to prat falls and colorful verbal ramblings. Platt performs a seemingly impossible task of making you like him in spite of his horribly offensive behavior.


Director Harold Ramis ("Caddyshack") doesn’t provoke enough variety in tempo to make the script’s pitch black punchlines pay off as much as they should. The movie also suffers from some miscasting of secondary characters that hinders the comedy just when it should ping off of the screen like a pinball bouncing between bumpers.

Watch The Ice Harvest Full Movie Online, Comedy Film

A recurring subplot has an incompetent Wichita policeman (T.J. Jagodowski) repeatedly catching Charlie at inopportune moments, before letting him off the hook so that Charlie will put in a good word for him with the local mob boss. Jagodowski is too lax to milk the comically pregnant scenes for their potential. You can’t help but speculate about the list of comic actors who could have done so much more with the role.


Nonetheless, an ice-water-and-firearm-climax provides an appropriately excessive finale as the femme fatale Renata adds just the right amount of erotic tension to dreams that have gone very wrong. A liberal sprinkling of nudity throughout the movie gives it a suitably sleazy atmosphere for its cast of miserable characters.

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This is a holiday movie for the have-nots who know that ice is the only thing in the world that is what it’s cracked up to be. Sure it’s a flawed premise that two desperate thieves would wait to leave town after a robbery just because the streets are frozen, but somebody’s got to visit Wichita strip clubs on Christmas Eve.

Rated R. 88 mins.

3 Stars


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