Posted on August 29, 2005 by Flames
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Guest Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Sex. Violence. Love. Fear. Based on the graphic novels created by Frank Miller, Sin City is a film that breathes life into pen and ink to show us an animated vision. This vision is about stories that force the character to fight against insurmountable odds because they all need something that has no name.
Thematically, the story is based on three pieces that merge into a whole. “That Yellow Bastard” comes to life with Nancy (Jessica Alba), and Hartigan, (Bruce Willis). Hartigan is on the brink of retirement; he struggles through his last hours as a police officer to rescue Nancy from the clutches of a high-powered official’s son, Roark Jr., played by Nick Stahl. This segment propels the film. Even if you know what happens, you want to witness their fates. That Yellow Bastard is the punctuation between Sin City and The Big Fat Kill.
Sin City is based on Marv (Mickey Rourke). Marv is the quintessential bad guy with a soft heart. You know he’s killed, you know he’s deranged, but somewhere, deep inside, you know he’s still human. The scene opens as Marv shares his rare moment of peace, found in a woman named “Goldie” (Jamie King). Soon framed for her murder, Marv pushes himself to the limits to find her killer with or without his parole officer’s (Carla Gugino) help. Sin City gives him no peace of mind, even the church and police are as corrupt as the criminals—but he’s an expert at how to deal with those that don’t cooperate. Marv’s nemesis, Kevin (Elijah Wood), smiles through it all, never saying a word.
The Big Fat Kill’s story about a waitress named “Shellie” (Brittany Murphy), who works at Kadie’s strip joint, looks straightforward enough. Shellie got herself a new man “Dwight” (Clive Owen), and tries to fend herself off from the old one “Jackie Boy” (Benecio del Toro). As Dwight trails off after Jackie Boy and his band of cronies, the story moves into Old Town—a place where women make the rules. Dwight has a history with Old Town’s Gail (Rosario Dawson) and doesn’t hesitate to try to make himself a new kind of hero. Heads start rolling as one of Old Town’s own, Becky (Alexis Bedel) sells them out. No one needs civil war in Old Town, and her champion Miho (Devon Aoki) will see to that.
While there is an abrasive grittiness to the film (every woman and man is identified sexually), there is also desperation. These characters do what they do to survive, and their dialogue (which is almost word for word from the graphic novels) proves it. You find yourself not knowing who the bad guy is anymore, the lines are blurred and even sometimes, death seems like the greatest reward. As an onlooker, you are drawn to these characters inner thoughts because of the actors’ performances. Mickey Rourke did an amazing job bringing Marv to the big screen. While her performance was stilted, Brittany Murphy showed a lot of promise as a serious actress. Bruce Willis has played roles like Hartigan before, but somehow he managed to put in just a little bit more of the dark—a little bit more of Sin City—to defeat Nick Stahl in all of his transformations. Most notable, however, are Devon Aoki and Elijah Wood for their silent participation. Each of them has their own style to breathe life into the characters—a glance, a smirk, a smile.
As bloody as Sin City gets, the gore is forgivable—not because you become desensitized by it, but because the film is made in such a way that you know you are detached from the Sin City mythos. Technically, the film is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Using a mix of what appears to be day-glo paint, lighting tricks, and impressive costumes, Sin City is the ultimate black-and-white film noir mixed in with a bit of spot color.
Redemption hard-fought, hope lost, blood, guts and gore, Sin City is not a film for everyone. Its characters explore only the basest of desires, hopes, and dreams. Like The Man (Josh Harnett) proved to us, look around the right corner in Sin City and you’ll find what you came to find.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli