Movie Review- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

This movie would have been great… if not for all the ridiculously harmful stereotypes everywhere.

Content Warning: rape, misogyny, rape culture.

Not to say it’s that way for all the characters. There are empowered badasses:

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Rosario returns as the leader of the girls in Old Town. Her story is a prequel, which still works because Rosario looks like she hasn’t aged 10 minutes. Josh Brolin fills in for Clive Owen as the face-changing Dwight. He does it well, but the character doesn’t pack the same punch for me in this tale compared to the Dwight that gave Benicio Del Toro a swirly for beating up on Brittany Murphy.

My main issue with the second installment centers around this story in particular. Dwight enlists the help of Gail & Miho and Marv in order to save Eva Green’s character, Ava Lord. Lord, an ex-lover of Dwight’s, calls on him for help. She says that her husband allows his servant/butler/valet Manute (Dennis Haysbert, the All-State man, who is no Lawrence Fishburne) to rape her and abuse her, that her husband keeps won’t let her leave. Dwight, who earlier saved a prostitute from a politician, has a chivalrous streak and no reason not to believe her. So he goes in to save her, first with Marv and no guns. Dwight tells Marv the tale and gets him drunk enough to be dangerous. Marv is always looking for a reason, anyway. Dwight gets turned into Swiss cheese and calls on Gail for help. They concoct a daring scheme- which is the highlight of the flick. Finally, Dwight confronts Mr. Lord, who says, “What has my wife told you? She’s pathological. I’ve done nothing and still she spreads lies about me.” 

And it’s true.

…So the plotline of the MAIN STORY this film (and the comic) comes to be because of a woman lying about rape…

Narratives such as these have real world implications. This is a large budget movie with big name stars and the MAIN plot is a woman lying about rape. Out here in the real world, women are treated as suspects instead of victims and interrogated when facing rapists and abusers. Take for example the instance of a woman who accused a pro-athlete of rape, she immediately reported it to casino security and then filed a civil suit -she sued for false imprisonment and sexual assault and battery (among other charges)- when the media reported the charges, she was immediately dubbed a “gold digger” for her appearance, then tabloids dug in to her mental state and found anxiety, insomnia and depression. They dubbed her “nutty” -and this was post-trauma. She had mental health consequences of someone who suffered abuse and was embroiled in a court battle and yet her mental health was held as evidence that she was unstable and unreasonable. It was assumed that the victim was claiming “rape” as a way to get large sums of money. Which in the plot of SC:ADTKF was true about Ava Lord. Do you see why this portrayal is damaging?

And before all the MRA’s and naive assbags show up in my yard. Yes. I know that there are also instances of women lying about rape. Although that’s only been found to be the case in .6 percent of rape allegations. So let’s focus on the other 99.4% of the time, shall we. That vast percent where women are forced to prove their virtue, their perceived “potential” to be “real victims”, where they have to prove that they were not “asking for it” because of clothing or BAC or sexual history. Where over 50% of rapes still go unreported (largely because the victim thinks they will not be believed or that their own morality will be on trial or that the accused is too well liked and even if they believe you they won’t care. 97% of accused rapists don’t go to jail. 

So please, by all fucking means: let us have a star studded case propagating this damaging bullshit. /sarcasm

And I know “this is for adults”, which is a comment I received to my criticism of this plotline. The assbags commenting that the aforementioned woman was a “gold digger,” the reporters that treated her like shit, the security guard who told her she should “be lucky to sleep with someone like that”? Adults. Judges who say that victims are better off not reporting rape if there is not enough evidence? Adults. People who mocked a drugged and passed out 16-year old rape victim? Some of them were adults. A Florida deputy who harassed a 17 year old victim, telling her that “he owned her”? Also an adult. 

Propagating this trope to any age group is fucking dangerous and harms women who report rape.

It’s also during this story that we have 2 lazy and racist tropes: the silent Asian badass and the powerful black servant. Overused and pointless, Miho was written as silent -her vocal chords were cut in an attempt on her life, but that doesn’t make it okay. The expressionless/voiceless Asian trope rears it’s head an awful lot across all genres: notably, with Agent May on “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”, to Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels, Ecks vs Sever and “Ally McBeal”, to Gwen and Avril’s Harajuku back-up dancers. And Manute’s archetype appeared most recently in “Penny Dreadful” with the character Sembene. He’s large and tough and reliable. He’s also a servant with no plotline of his own. Dwight refers to Manute as “not even human” …that’s not a good look.

Gail’s my favorite. She has agency, she fights for herself, her “girls” and her man. 

But I’m not opposed to male heroes, or anti-heroes. The dangerous Marv always drinking and looking for a fight. Always ready to ride for his friends and help out a beautiful dame. It’s cliche, but it’s well done in this case. But his last appearance in the flick seemed unnecessary. Nancy’s story made no sense. She has a good motive, she wants to avenge Hartigan, who she is haunted by. She couldn’t shoot the Senator at Kadie’s and suddenly, seemingly without reason. she chops off her hair, cuts her face, gets Marv involved and suddenly she can pull the trigger. What changed? No idea. Needless to say, she had other chances (watching the Senator through the wall as he lost at poker to Joseph Gordon-Levitt), wouldn’t the ending have been better if she shot the Senator before he offed JG-L? or if she had done it in the middle of Kadie’s and then they had to fight off a bunch of goons? Whatever. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s plot was unnecessary as a whole. He had style and panache and his plot involved a trip to see the Doc, Christopher Lloyd, but there wasn’t enough reason for me to get emotionally invested. What was the point? to show that the Senator was a bad guy? We knew that. And JG-L is no Josh Hartnett.

Cinematically it’s bad ass. It’s stylish and gritty and Jessica Alba’s dancing is still fantastic. It needed more Rosario Dawson.

2.5 out of 5

31 Horrifying Days- Day 12: “Lucky Bastard”

The premise of the movie centers around a contest. The contest is run by a website called “Lucky Bastard” and the Lucky Bastard gets to fuck a pornstar. In this case, that pornstar is the smoking hot Ashley Saint (played by smoking hot Betsy Rue, My Bloody Valentine) and the fan is Dave (Jay Paulson, who has played a recurring role on “Mad Men”).

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Ashley Saint is one of the hottest girls in the company, but she has turned down participating in the “Lucky Bastard” contest because of her personal rule: “No anal and no amateurs.” She changes her mind when director Mike (Don McManus, looking very Big Lebowski) offers her more money. Ashley is more than a sexy cut out pornstar trope, she’s a single mother and at one point says in a breathy, sexy voice into the camera “Oh yeah, help my clip my double coupons” after Mike says she’s giving fans limp dick by saying that she’s a single mother. Her ex was an abusive meth-head, but it’s not played for sympathy. Ashley sees porn as a job like any other job that provides food, rent and school clothes for her kids. (Weren’t we just talking about legitimizing sex-work?)

But when she meets Dave… he gives her the creeps. He calls her by her real name, knows her kids names and then blows his load prematurely. Ashley yells, “I know I’m not a lawyer or Hilary FUCKING Clinton, but I am a professional! This is not professional!” She refuses to do the scene. Mike, whose main focus is on dollar signs has been ordering people around and trying to coerce everyone to his will. He makes it clear that he thinks Dave is a loser, he treats cameramen Kris (Chris Wylde) and Nico (Lanny Joon) like personal servants, bribes Ashley into uncomfortable situations and then tries to get his own pornstar girlfriend, Casey (Catherine Annette, Nobody Can Cool, upcoming Vampire Schoolgirls) to screw Dave as a backup plan -after telling her that she couldn’t shoot the B-roll footage. She takes being a back-up personally.

Mike gets angry. Like “Hulk-style: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” And then frustrated loser Dave becomes concerned about what’s on the cameras. After a spitting mad shouting match, Mike sends Dave off. 58 minutes in is when everything comes to a head.

It seems like an easy setup, it is slow cookin, two-thirds of the film just doing everyday stuff (and porn), but throughout that time the audience gets insight into the characters. Ashley’s there for her kids, she’s thinking about being a Hollywood Actress, Mike wanted to be a big time director, Casey just wants to be a pornstar… And Dave has no idea who he really is.

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“Whatever I want is what I do, so whatever I do, that’s what I want. Now I’m a bitchin’ pornstar.”

An hour of this 94 minute flick is spent building up the awkwardness and egos and sexy shots of Betsy Rue’s naked body (full frontal, visible tanlines included) but when the violence starts, it doesn’t stop. And we see how far the victims will go to save their own asses.

But is it scary? Nope. But it was surprising. Uncomfortable to watch in the way I find “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to be and once the violence amps up there are shocking edge of your seat moments. The premise that’s centered around a house full of cameras for porn shoots makes the mockumentary style more palatable unlike found footage films that are beyond belief (Like Devil’s Pass teleporting monsters are after you. How would you not have thrown the camera at it?).

3.75/5

Due to the NC-17 rating, the film didn’t get a wide cinematic release (although it was in select theaters), it is currently available on Amazon Video on Demand.

If you would like to know more, director Robert Nathan will be on Radio of Horror on 5/26 (technically) show starts at midnight EST so tune in for the dirt on the dangers of humiliation TV, hypocrisy towards the porn industry and real life inspiration for the characters.

Almost Human: episodes 1 + 2

Pilot. 

So the plot of this show, taking place in 2048 is essentially the plot of Dredd, which also starred Karl Urban. Which is fine, I like Dredd, Drugs have taken over schools and streets and cops are given robot reinforcements to help fight drug lords and violent gangs.

Karl Urban is there, as detective John Kennex with his robot back-up who he is arguing with because his robot does not understand the value of human life, he only understands odds, statistics. He does everything he can to save his partner but in the end they are blown to bits by the criminals they were pursuing. 

He’s getting some controversial treatments after being through the trauma and then a 17 month coma.

John gets called in to investigate following an armed robbery. His leg got blown off and he has a mechanical leg. 785 has been assigned to him. He wants a human partner but he is told by Lisa from Six Feet Under that robot partners are mandatory. She shows him the robbery video and points out why she thinks it’s connected to Syndicate. 

Richard, a fellow officer, blames John for getting his partner killed in the raid. He disobeyed instructions… blah blah.

While at the crime scene he has a flashback to the day his partner was killed. The MX says he thinks John had a seizure and he’s going to report what he saw. John says there’s nothing to report (which there is and isn’t) and it goes on from there until John pushes the bot out of the speeding car.

Saying his MX bust have experienced a software malfunction, he goes to get a new one (one who isn’t accusing him of getting black market medical treatment) and they give him a robot that got scrapped, one that was closer to human.

Dorian was decommissioned 4 years ago. “I express most data conversationally, man.” 

Richard calls the new team 2 from the scrap heap. 

Criminals in the same masks as in the robbery kidnap an detective Vogel and destroy his MX and John questions a suspect who was injured in the robbery. He shot himself to get away from the Syndicate. John threatens to throw Dorian out of the car. 

The suspect makes himself vomit and pulls a small explosive out of his stomach and sticks it on the back of the toilet.

They go to find Vogel and Dorian disobeys the MX models. Finding an elaborate trip wire and set up John knows they’ve been tricked. The tries to call in to Patel who is transporting the suspect. 

They gas Vogel right in front of him.

the suspect escapes.

MX units are made to feel nothing, Dorian wasn’t created that way. He read the file where John blamed the MX for leaving his partner behind to save others. 

Vogel was a test, the gas is designed to target cops. John heads to his doctor to undergo more treatment to remember what he needs to know about Syndicate to stop them from targetting police. While in the chamber, he recovers a memory, his girlfriend who disappeared while he was comatose was there. She was a member of Syndicate. Dorian busts in and gives him a shock to the heart. Saves his life.

Over noodles in the rain Dorian says he really did it for himself. If John were dead, he would be back to the scrap heap. John’s just lucky that he wants to be a cop so badly.

They discuss the differences in programming between MXs and Dorian’s type. John decides that they should recover the memory from Vogel’s MX’s memory and give it to Dorian because he can make the connection. Which he does, and they find that Syndicate is planning to hit the police evidence locker TONIGHT. 

Syndicate drops the MXs but Dorian, who runs on a different frequency, stays up. Evidence files get destroyed but John and Dorian save the lives of the human officers and apprehend a man high up in Syndicate.

Thanks to John and his DRN bot, lives are saved and Richard (and other haters) have no choice but to acknowledge this.

Skin.

A “bang bot” or a female robot designed specifically for sexual purposes is having tests performed on her while she flirts with a man. They are being watched and someone becomes concerned when they see she is not being used for her intended purposes. After he cuts a piece of her hair, 2 Albanian men bust in and kill the man performing the tests then they explode a DNA bomb so that there will be no traces of evidence that are not tainted. 

The man killed was an inventor, Sebastian Johns. He invented the first “sex robot” (used some of the same tech from the DRN models to make them more empathetic to the need and wishes of their partners. 

John and Dorian are showing off how cool they are to kids. Dorian shows them his glowing electrical veins under his skin… John stabs himself in his synthetic leg… the kids freak. Shocker.

They investigate the murder. The men’s faces show up as flashes of light on the security cameras, the girl shows up, the test for DNA wherever she touches on the footage and she is leaving behind traces of DNA from a 25 year old woman who was abducted from a parking garage. There have been 3 other cases that follow this pattern. The latest one was witnessed by the woman’s young child. 

John decides to show off that he can be good with kids, he gives a miniature giraffe that moves like a real giraffe to the boy, Victor, and tells him that he trusts him to take care of it, but that he needs him to be brave and tell him what he remembers with his mom. He remembers a big silver car- they find the car on security cameras with stolen plates. But atleast now they have a lead.

Sebastian Johns was being sued by his former business partner. John and Dorian go to see him. The company went bankrupt because their largest investor- Albanian business men- backed out. They said they could “cut out the middle man” but he finds it hard to believe anyone could make a bot as realistic as theirs. Of the Albanians he says, “They were good clients and they always paid on time,” that’s all he’s willing to say. 

Dorian hacks in and they find the connection. Then they head to the club and test the bots for human DNA. John is approached and asked if they want a bot. Special rate for cops.

The others have tracked the sedan to a warehouse and Detective Kennex and Dorian are dispatched. 

Dorian, noticing that John is attracted to the female robots, creates a profile for John on a dating website (his testicles were at maximum capacity). John describes what he wants in a woman and pretty much describes detective Stahl. who, speaking of, calls to say they’ve found the suspect’s vehicle. They get on the scene and find Vanessa, a sex robot who tests positive for human DNA, a woman named Lorraine who was abducted from a parking garage. Dorian is visibly upset because he knows that Vanessa is illegal and that she also has emotions the way Dorian does.

They attempt to question her for information but that doesn’t work out, so they access her data and find she was first activated in Kingston Heights. They raid Kingston Heights and find 2 of the 3 recently abducted women (including Victor’s mom) alive.

Dorian learns that Vanessa has to be deactivated but chooses to go and comfort her as it happens. John confronts his past and goes to see his former partner’s widow and son. 

There’s a ton going on here in the first two episodes, I’m glad we got further away from the “war on drugs” plotline from the first episode. I like Dorian, he’s caring, brave, determined to be a cop… but also missing many social cues while being tuned in meticulously on other levels. The idea of robots with empathy isn’t totally unique, but I think it’s really interesting that the police force was largely more comfortable with the MX models as opposed to the DRN, more inclined to use the models that played the odds, those that they don’t have to care about or feel anything for. That distance between the “authority” and other humans. It’s also very telling that the DRN models were decommissioned because they “snapped.” As robots given agency and empathy they process complex emotions but are still treated as “things” and not as people, those they risked their lives for and connected with considered them “less than.” Dorian was very concerned about who will remember him when he is gone while still worrying that he will end up back in the heap again and then witnessing Vanessa, a robot programmed to form connections, meet a cruel fate.