Sin City is a cornucopia of violence, grit, and attitude. Many will feel unclean after viewing the film’s stylized and hypnotic ballets of gruesomeness. They don’t call it “Sin City” for nothing.
Writer/director Robert Rodriguez has been lobbying to get author Frank Miller’s graphic novel stories to the big screen for several years, and any doubters who thought he wasn’t up for the job are proven wrong in the film’s glorious opening sequence. Rodriguez has always been a prodigy of sorts when it comes to hyperactive violence on screen. His Desperado may be remembered by many only for its choreographed gun play. He’s a man who’s always wanted to push the limits of style and look in film, and in Sin City we may be witnessing him at the pinnacle of his stylized eye.
Rodriguez also adapts the screenplay, and there are plenty of juicy one-liners for those who want to walk out with quotes. His mixture of current social themes with layers of true film noir dialogue is endlessly fascinating to listen to. Rodriguez clearly understands the source material.
The film Sin City consists of three separate stories that all intertwine in some way. In one tale Bruce Willis plays Hartigan, a cop with a bum ticker who is on the trail of a child rapist played by Nick Stahl. In another yarn we have Marv (Rourke), an over-sized Hulk who is out to avenge the murder of the one woman he has truly loved – a prostitute named Goldie (Jaime King). In yet another story Clive Owen is Dwight, the love interest of barmaid Shelley (Brittany Murphy). He spends most of his nights trying to keep Jackie Boy (Del Toro), a corrupt cop, away from her and a gang of women that no guy would want to get mixed up with, despite their stunning looks. How the stories mesh is for you, the viewer, to discover, but all are compelling with Marv’s story being the true highlight of the film.
What most viewers will take away from Sin City is what it accomplishes on a technical level, which is nothing short of spectacular. Filmed in black and white (which is particularly socially unacceptable these days) with specific character traits appearing in bold color, Sin City has a look unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Obviously props go to the under-appreciated film noir genre of the early part of the 1900’s, but Rodriguez ups the ante by seamlessly merging his characters with special effects via blue screens. The final product is jaw-dropping, and all the more because the film still manages to hold a distinct comic book tone.
The all-star cast is fantastic, with Mickey Rourke stealing the show as Marv, a mutant of sorts who knows how to get people to talk. Rourke gives the character a human sensibility that makes the audience root for him, even though his acts of violence are beyond reproach. Benicio Del Toro, who is almost unrecognizable here, also makes a strong impression as the despicable Rafferty. He plays the most hateable character in the movie, but is also given some truly priceless scenes of pitch black comedy. Bruce Willis does his schtick as a rough cop, and in some inspired casting Elijah Wood turns up the creep-o-meter as a mute cannibal. Clive Owen is also worth noting as a true old school revenge-getter. The rest of this fabulous A-list cast all make solid impressions.
No discussion of Sin City is complete without mention of its uber-violence, and I can safely say that everything you’ve heard is true. This is one hell of a violent movie, and it really came full circle when two couples in front of me left before the thirty minute mark. We have decapitations, dismemberments, and a particular penchant for harming male genitalia. It’s all done in an over-the-top Kill Bill-style manner, but it is for sure not for the faint of heart. I’ll let this serve as my disclaimer for the hearty recommendation I give the film.
Sin City is the first great film of 2005, and for the first time in a long time I am actually wishing for that Rodriguez and co. feed us more stories down the line with a sequel or follow-up. With a groundbreaking style, glorious visuals, top-drawer acting, and just flat-out balls, Sin City is a film well worth seeing if you have a strong stomach.
Studio: Dimension Films
Length: 126 Minutes
Rating: R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity and sexual content including dialogue.
Theatrical Release: April 1, 2005
Directed by: Frank Miller & Robert Rod
Written by: Robert Rodriguez. Based upon the comics created by Frank Miller.
Cast: Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan