|Director:||Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, Quentin Tarantino|
Brutal and breathtaking, Sin City is Robert Rodriguez’s stunningly realized vision of Frank Miller’s pulpy comic books. In the first of three separate but loosely related stories, Marv (Mickey Rourke in heavy makeup) tries to track down the killers of a woman who ended up dead in his bed. In the second story, Dwight’s (Clive Owen) attempt to defend a woman from a brutal abuser goes horribly wrong, and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce among the police, the mob, and the women of Old Town. Finally, an aging cop on his last day on the job (Bruce Willis)…
Brutal and breathtaking, Sin City is Robert Rodriguez’s stunningly realized vision of Frank Miller’s pulpy comic books. In the first of three separate but loosely related stories, Marv (Mickey Rourke in heavy makeup) tries to track down the killers of a woman who ended up dead in his bed. In the second story, Dwight’s (Clive Owen) attempt to defend a woman from a brutal abuser goes horribly wrong, and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce among the police, the mob, and the women of Old Town. Finally, an aging cop on his last day on the job (Bruce Willis) rescues a young girl from a kidnapper, but is himself thrown in jail. Years later, he has a chance to save her again.
Based on three of Miller’s immensely popular and immensely gritty books (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard), Sin City is unquestionably the most faithful comic-book-based movie ever made. Each shot looks like a panel from its source material, and director Rodriguez (who refers to it as a “translation” rather than an adaptation) resigned from the Directors Guild so that Miller could share a directing credit. Like the books, it’s almost entirely in stark black and white with some occasional bursts of color (a woman’s red lips, a villain’s yellow face). The backgrounds are entirely digitally generated, yet not self-consciously so, and perfectly capture Miller’s gritty cityscape. And though most of Miller’s copious nudity is absent, the violence is unrelentingly present. That may be the biggest obstacle to viewers who aren’t already fans of the books and who may have been turned off by Kill Bill (whose director, Quentin Tarantino, helmed one scene of Sin City). In addition, it’s a bleak, desperate world in which the heroes are killers, corruption rules, and the women are almost all prostitutes or strippers. But Miller’s stories are riveting, and the huge cast—which also includes Jessica Alba, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Devin Aoki, Carla Gugino, and Josh Hartnett—is just about perfect. (Only Bruce Willis and Michael Madsen, while very well-suited to their roles, seem hard to separate from their established screen personas.) In what Rodriguez hopes is the first of a series, Sin City is a spectacular achievement. —David Horiuchi
Barnes and Noble
The highly stylized graphic novels of talented comic-book artist Frank Miller come to life in an equally stylized motion picture co-directed by Miller and Robert Rodriguez. Starkly photographed in black-and-white (with strategically placed daubs of color), Sin City resembles its printed-page inspiration more closely than perhaps any previous comic-book adaptation. Rodriguez and Miller take great pains to replicate specific panels from the graphic novels, casting actors who resemble the pen-and-ink characters, posing them in the same positions, and employing the same dramatic interplay of light and shadow created by Miller’s bold brushwork. The reliance on comic-book imagery makes for an impressionistic look so visually striking that the viewer either won’t know or won’t care that the interrelated, episodic story lines are pure pulp, distilled from decades of hard-boiled crime fiction and the noirish movie thrillers of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Bruce Willis plays a rugged, honest cop—one of the few working in Sin City—who rescues a little girl from a sadistic rapist (Nick Stahl) whose big brother (Rutger Hauer) happens to be a politically well-connected clergyman. Framed into prison, the cop languishes for years, and the girl grows up to be a stripper (Jessica Alba) working in a nightclub frequented by a hulking ex-con (an unrecognizable Mickey Rourke) wanted for murder. Meanwhile, a corrupt detective (Benicio Del Toro) who is harassing one of the club’s waitresses (Brittany Murphy) is eventually killed by her boyfriend (Clive Owen). The resulting chaos ignites a war between Sin City’s armed prostitutes (led by Rosario Dawson) and dishonest cops infuriated by the murder of their crooked comrade. The movie’s two-dimensional underpinnings are reinforced by the comic-strip nature of its violence: people sustain multiple gunshot wounds without dying, plunge from great heights without injury, and soar dozens of feet through the air after being hit by speeding cars. There’s nothing even remotely realistic about Sin City, but its atmospherics are so convincing that viewers will believe they’re always right in the middle of this violent, grotesque, fully realized world. Ed Hulse