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Fifty Shades of Crime (Give or Take)
Written on 08/29/2014, film first viewed by author on 08/25/2014
The technique is not new to film. This is a known fact, especially since the film being discussed is a semi-sequel to a movie possessing the same styles, techniques, and character types. One of the very few movies to pull off the technique without showcasing it as a novelty was Schindler’s List, visually clear when Schindler notices the red coat of a little Jewish girl on two meaningful occasions in an otherwise black and white film. Pleasantville symbolically used color to mean a change towards enlightened thinking, but practically used that as the only plot’s end result. Another new release, The Giver, also plays with the importance of colors that can and can’t be seen, but not with the same effect, with a dystopian storyline that is being too overused in modern, blockbuster cinema (though the author gives no disrespect to the classic novel by Lois Lowery).
The technique of selective coloring is used in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For as a highlighter of significance, whether it be for foreshadowing of coming events, the display of a character’s mood, or to throw off the audience with a red herring (no pun intended). For the most part, the characters and backgrounds of Sin City are in high-contrasting black and white. However, almost right off from the start, one character can be noticed in full, vibrant color: Marcie (Julia Garner), the arm candy and good luck charm of Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). There may be three immediate ways to interpret her being all-color. First, it could be just sheer beauty. As she is noticeable by color to the audience, she stands out to Johnny upon him entering Kadie’s Saloon. Second, it may be that she does indeed radiate good fortune as her presence with Johnny gives him a lucky edge in his risky endeavors. Third, (and the theory the author favors) she is innocent. The color may be her soul, so to speak, and the black and white scheme of everyone and everything else signifies the lack of soul, the abundance of sin. Another particularly interesting use of selective coloring in the film is the first appearance of Ava (Eva Green) to Dwight (Josh Brolin). She walks into the saloon wearing a blue overcoat, a symbolic reference in color theory to gloom, sadness, and sorrow. This is backed up by her performance of heartache and regret to Dwight. Only later, once Ava has shown her true colors (okay, pun intended) can the green of greed be seen in her eyes, the sexually-charged viciousness of red in her lips.
While selective coloring is sometimes artful in Frank Miller’s and Robert Rodriguez’s second cinematic exploit into the gritty, noir-homage world that Miller created in graphic novels, it begins to be overused as compensation. This can be said for the first Sin City film, as well. Instead of actors’ performances and crafty story construction alone giving the audience enough clues to pick up on themes, ulterior motives, and subtext, the colors bully their way into the frame and spoil the mysteries. It is a problem with other films that overuse selective coloring. The color is used for emphasis, but it ends up beating a long dead horse. In short, it’s information overload.
That is not to say that the performances of the star-studded cast did not hold a few gems. The way Mickey Rourke relishes his “badass thug” portrayal of Marv brings humor into violent situations, and the extreme on-again-off-again relationship of Brolin’s and Green’s characters holds enough spark and dark drama. Another favorable aspect of the story is the satisfying wrap up of Nancy’s (Jessica Alba) narrative that began in the first film. However, to a newcomer unfamiliar with the antics of nonlinear storytelling, the back-and-forth jumping from plotline to plotline may leave one’s head spinning. The author even confesses to being confused at some points when trying to keep up with the happenings of the future and the past in the two-film story. It would also be wise to view Sin City before taking on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For to clear-up what otherwise looks like random character entries and loose ends.
Though clearly not something like the classic, two-part Godfather saga (part three is forever forgettable), the Sin City films are fun, violent, and sex-filled forms of escapism with not much to spare.