To make up for my admittedly obvious choice for my favorite, my second favorite Christmas movie is one of the best action films of all time that just so happens to be set entirely on Christmas Eve. Despite being originally released in the middle of summer and featuring a body count of nearly 20 bloody murders, Christmas is not incidental to Die Hard. Beginning with an act of Christmas kindness from the likeable limo driver Argyle, featuring several Christmas songs hummed by Sgt. Powell, and ending with Let it Snow during the credits- barely a minute goes by where we’re not reminded that it’s Christmastime at Nakatomi Plaza. In fact, when the third Die Hard abandoned Christmas Eve for summer in New York, I missed it, more than I missed Bonnie Bedelia as Holly or Reginald VelJohnson as Powell- also both missing in the third installment. This is the perfect Christmas movie for those that don’t mind a little mayhem with their mistletoe.
For a blow-by-blow account, read Jay’s live blogging of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
“I’ve gone and done something again. Wish I could remember what”.
Marv (Mickey Rourke) has gone and done it again. It’s bad to forget your medicine when you’ve got a condition. This opening, based on Frank Miller’s short story Just Another Saturday Night, does not bode well for the rest of this sequel that I’d been anxiously awaiting for nearly 10 years. The first scene of Sin City, where Josh Hartnett plays a contract killer who completes a contract that a woman apparently put out on her herself, was not like anything I had ever seen. Sin City 2’s opening felt so much like a movie that I’d already seen before that, when watching it with Luc, it took me five minutes to convince him that we weren’t accidentally rewatching the first one. This had better get better fast.
“Poker. Savage power in gentlemen’s hands”.
If you’ve read my other reviews, you might have noticed that I have a bit of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt bias that I might as well come clean about. With that kept in mind, this next segment of the film, an original story by Frank Miller written for the movie, is the strongest by far. JGL plays a gambler who wins more than he should have against the beastly no good Senator Roark. He’s cocky but with more than his share of demons and if there’s one thing JGL knows, it’s cocky with more than his share of demons. Plus, movies like Brick and Looper have prepared him for lines like “Sin City’s where you go in with your eyes open. Or you don’t come out at all”. It isn’t just him that makes this the best of the four stories though. Everyone involved seems to be having more fun, especially Powers Boothe as Roark, who seems to get hard with every ruthless word.
“It’s another hot night, dry and windless. The kind that makes people do sweaty, secret things”.
This is really the main segment of the film, a nearly panel-for-panel adaptation of one of Miller’s more popular graphic novels, A Dame to Kill for. Eva Green plays Ava Lord, a damsel to kill for who seduces men into doing horrible things, including our old pal Dwight (this time played by Josh Brolin). The almost constantly naked Green is even more wicked than in Miller’s 300: Rise of an Empire earlier this year. She seems to relish playing her, even if she never seems sure what to do with her accent. Everyone else is phoning it in though. Brolin growls through all his lines like he’s trying to out-Marv Marv. Rourke, as Marv (over-used in the sequel) sounds like he showed up to the ten-year Sin City reunion only to find that it wasn’t nearly as much fun as he remembered. And Ray Liotta, in a short cameo, uses the campy dialogue as an excuse to go full Liotta. This story might have been a better fit for the first film, when the novelty was still there.
“I don’t use the stripper logic anymore”.
We end with another original story, this time focusing on Jessica Alba’s character. It gets off to a pretty good start. Nancy starts to fall apart after the death of Bruce Willis’ character in the first movie and Alba plays it better than I would have expected. The segment itself starts to fall apart very quickly though with more skull-crushing from Marv and a crossbow-wiedling Nancy. It ends with the death of a character that may kill the possibility of a third Sin City, which I would have been disappointed by 9 years ago. After watching this sequel though, it’s probably for the best.
After reviewing Mysterious Skin yesterday, I was inspired to buy and rewatch Looper. I think this movie was high profile enough for me not to bother with my usual summary of the plot so I will just offer a reminder that this is the one where Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the connection to Mysterious Skin in case you were wondering) plays a specialized hitman who must hunt for his future self (Bruce Willis) who has been sent from the future for assassination.
If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend it. Director Rian Johnson (Brick) creates a version of the future that is different enough from our present to be interesting but similar enough to be relatable. Because people are sent from the future just to be executed, not to change the past, Looper even avoids most of the logic problems that are usually par for the course with time travel movies. Okay, there are still a few “yeah, but wouldn’t…” moments but maybe that’s even part of the fun. JGL apparently spent a lot of time watching old footage of a younger Willis and, with the help of some talented make-up artists, the two actors do a better job than you might expect of being convincing as the same guy. Oh, and you have Jeff Daniels playing a gangster. So, see it.
But I’m mostly writing this not to the people who haven’t seen it but to those who have. Or at least to those who have either seen it enough times or seen it recently enough to remember what I’m talking about. Please, please, explain that ending to me! When I first saw it back in 2012, I promised myself that if I saw it again, I’m a smart guy- I could figure it out. But I just rewatched it and I still don’t understand how the last five seconds could possibly fit. So, if you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comment section.